Cyprus opens to more bilateral relations with Gambia

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By Omar Bah

Thessalia Salina Shambos, Ambassador at the Cyprus Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Director covering Middle East, Gulf and Africa, has said the European Union country is opening its doors to The Gambia.

Ambassador Shambos was in Banjul on a diplomatic mission to extend her country’s desire to closely work with The Gambia. During her stay, she attended the EU-Gambia political dialogue attended by almost all Gambian ministers and as well engaged with several Gambian ministers.

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Speaking to The Standard hours before her departure, Ambassador Shambos said she was sent to The Gambia as a special envoy for the Cyprus Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as to attend the European Union and The Gambia high level political dialogue that was chaired by Foreign Minister Mamadou Tangara.

“My visit was also meant to convey a message of friendship and engagement from the president of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades to His Excellency President Adama Barrow and from several Cyprus ministers to Gambian ministers. What was overwhelmingly apparent in all our meetings is the unwavering desire and commitment of the Cabinet Ministers to do a lot in taking Gambia to the next level in regards to modernisation, structural reform and to do more in facing our common and global challenges and those challenges relates to asymmetric threats, the challenges that both European Union and African countries and small countries like Cyprus and The Gambia face such as issues relating terrorist, maritime security, energy crisis and ensuring a better future,” she added.

She said the visit was also to strengthen political dialogue and relationship between Cyprus and The Gambia, adding that “Cyprus can be very credibly counted upon in the European Union as a member state that wants to feed in the positive agenda between the European Union and The Gambia”.

“I also conveyed an official request and invitation by our foreign minister to Minister Tangara to visit Cyprus. I have also conveyed the request of our ministers to their Gambian counterparts such as fisheries, tourism, agriculture, education, maritime, security training and a lot more for the need to strengthen the backbone and coordination between the two countries. All these are based on common values and unwavering commitment to international law, mutual trust, respect and solidarity,” she added.

Ambassador Shambos said her country hopes that the Gambia government commits itself to collaborate with them because they want more Gambians to visit and study in Cyprus to improve the natural connection between the two countries.

Ambassador Shambos added that the Gambia shares many historical commonalities with Cyprus as former colonies of Britain.

She said the Gambia and Cyprus have the same profile in the areas of fishing and tourism.

“Cyprus is the world’s 30th most popular destination for tourism. We also have a very strong flag on fishing in the world and we have been in the forefront as an EU Member state pushing for the upgrading of EU and Africa relations. So, because we are a small country and in a vulnerable region, we act and manifest ourselves as pillars of security and stability in the region. So, we are in the process of identifying ways of strengthening our bilateral cooperation in key fields like the ones I mentioned including the areas of education,” she added.

She argued that Cyprus has a principal position as regards to ensuring and respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity and independence of all states.

The top diplomat commended the government for establishing a gender and children ministry, adding that Cyprus will look for means to support the ministry.

She commended the Cyprus honorary consul in The Gambia, Salifu K Jaiteh for his amazing job in connecting the two countries.

“We don’t have a stationed Embassy in Banjul but we have been working very intensely with the Gambia in multilateral forums such as the United Nations and the Commonwealth where we are both members,” she added.