Understandably, geography is a science that is both natural and social. It defines the relationship of man with space and its study was the beginning of the evolution of civilizations and the discovery of the world. It helped to spread knowledge, to get to know peoples and to develop relationships. It was the cornerstone for the development of diplomacy, which of course due to its geography was easier initially with neighboring countries. It was the natural and logical act of detecting the intentions and profile of a neighboring country. Geography is therefore not an option and therefore the geographical data are unchanged and cannot be changed. But what can change is their importance through foreign policy.
The Tripartite Cooperation Mechanisms that were established between Cyprus and Greece with countries in the region have exactly this purpose: to highlight the importance of geographical data for the benefit of all parties and the wider Eastern Mediterranean region.
Based on reciprocity and common challenges, these tripartite groups are introducing a new foreign policy philosophy to the region that promotes not only peace and stability as key issues, but also the progress and prosperity of peoples through the conclusion of agreements of understanding that define areas of cooperation covering a wide range of issues. So, in addition to the frequent dialogue that gives a new dimension to the relations between the countries that constitute the tripartite cooperation, what is sought is for the results of the agreements at the highest political level to be reflected mainly in civil society and at the macroeconomic and microeconomic level.
In other words, the shapes of the tripartites are not as they have been perceived by some “high policy” collaborations, if it can be put that way, in matters of general strategy and which aim only at symbolism or some formal character of mutual support. These tripartite collaborations aim at tangible results aimed at, among other things, prosperity and progress both socially and economically. This is achieved only through the activity and the results of these activities and not only through the agreements. That is why it was decided to establish the Permanent Secretariat of Tripartite Mechanisms based in Nicosia. As a core of a permanent basis, its role is to coordinate actions between the countries that constitute the tripartite cooperation with the aim of implementing and completing proposals and projects. The Member States of the various tripartite formations will have representatives in the Permanent Secretariat and will therefore participate substantially.
Given that we are in an era where the challenges are multidimensional and due to geographical location common among the countries in the region, these tripartite collaborations can be a powerful tool in solving these problems. It is precisely the common problems that have given rise in several cases in recent years to countries in the same region to “seek” collaborations to solve problems together. A strong example is the Tripartite Cooperation Secretariat set up between China, Japan and South Korea. Since 2011 it has been the central focus of discussions on issues related to peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia. Today, the Secretariat touches on 29 issues of cooperation and is the umbrella for more than 70 advisory mechanisms while creating conditions for the institutionalization of new collaborations.
Of course, the characteristics of the tripartite collaborations in the case of the countries of our region are different from the case that I described above, since they are different shapes with each one having its own special characteristics but also the flexibility to adapt accordingly, as for example in the case of a fourth country that may be included for special purposes or projects. The King of Jordan's reference to the last tripartite in Athens, both in Iraq and in Egypt, with which Jordan has already attended four rounds of trilateral talks, confirms the flexibility of these schemes. That said, the clear position that these partnerships are not intended to exclude any other state in the region and that each state is welcome given that it respects the basic principles of international relations and international law is of paramount importance.
Looking back at modern history, one can see that the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East were wronged by the prospects they could have for their development, mainly by external factors due to political philosophies that today of course have no application nor. logic. The countries of the region deserve a better fate and the Tripartite Partnerships have the potential to add value to the prospects that open up in the coming years.
The role of Cyprus
Cyprus has historically had special ties with the countries of the region, while since 2003, with the agreement for the delimitation of its Exclusive Economic Zone with Egypt, it has created new data in terms of its foreign policy. Subsequently, with the agreement with Lebanon in 2007 and Israel in 2010, Cyprus gradually managed to add further value to its presence in the region. This is to the credit of all the Governments that participated in this effort. Through the tripartite cooperation, the Republic of Cyprus further enhances its role and credibility at regional and international level. Regardless of the fact that it is under the current Government that the specific idea of tripartite cooperation has progressed and is being implemented, it would be disappointing and strategically wrong for Cyprus for such an effort not to receive the support it needs either in the near future or later. Moreover, it would be equally disappointing to take the wrong approach to the role of Cyprus in these mechanisms. It should be understood that this role should be a role of “constructive contribution”, if the term allows me, with a real interest in the region. Although the Member States of the Partnerships have their own interests to support through these tripartite schemes it is the joint effort to utilize the geographical data as I mentioned at the beginning but also the common goals that will lead to the implementation of projects that will support and the interests of each state separately.
* Stavros Angelidis is a Scientific Associate at the Permanent Secretariat of Tripartite Mechanisms. He holds a Master's degree in International Politics and Diplomacy with a specialization in Global Political Economy.