Saudi Arabia determined to strengthen ties with Cyprus

Saudi Arabia is keen to explore ways of strengthening relations with Cyprus given the European Union member country’s geographic location and long-standing ties with the Arab world, Arab News quoted the kingdom’s foreign minister as saying on Wednesday, citing the Associated Press.

Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf had a meeting with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades on Wednesday during an official visit to Nicosia.

Al-Assaf said there was “high interest” in developing relations with Cyprus “on all fronts”, according to the AP.

The minister also said that Saudi Arabia supported the sovereignty of Cyprus and the UN decisions on the Cyprus problem, and hoped that the parties would resolve problems in a peaceful manner, after talks he had in Nicosia with his Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides, Cyprus News Agency reported

“Taking into consideration recent developments in our Exclusive Economic Zone and particularly the illegal activities and aggressive behaviour of Turkey, the solidarity and support of countries such as Saudi Arabia is indispensable,” Christodoulides said to his Saudi counterpart during their meeting, according to Arab News. 

Turkey maintains that attempts by Cyprus to conduct gas exploration are a violation of the rights of the Turkish part of the divided island. Turkey also has territorial claims that overlap with Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.

Al-Assaf’s visit came amid heightened tensions in eastern Mediterranean over Turkey’s efforts to step up its drilling activities near Cyprus.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia have been at odds since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman came to power in 2017 as both countries are competing to extend their influence in the Middle East and North Africa. The tensions between the countries peaked after Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident journalist and vocal critic of Salman, was killed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October.