France looks to develop defense cooperation with Cyprus

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Cyprus Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides, right, and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian shake hands after they make statements to media during a press conference after their meeting at the Cypriot foreign ministry in capital Nicosia, Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. Cyprus and France have in recent years bolstered ties in the fields of energy, the economy, defense, and culture. French oil and gas company Total is licensed to search for hydrocarbons off Cyprus' southern coast. (AP Photo/ Philippos Christou)

France's foreign minister says his country is looking to bolster defense cooperation with Cyprus that could help augment Europe's presence in the east Mediterranean.

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Jean-Yves Le Drian said Friday after talks with his Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides that France wants a more united, democratic and sovereign Europe "whose voice is heard with greater power in the world."

Christodoulides said Cyprus is ready to work with France to fulfill the ambition of French President Emmanuel Macron that Europe takes more responsibility for its own defense.

French warships often use the east Mediterranean island-nation — some 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Syria's coastline — as a resupply and refueling stop.

The two ministers also discussed expanding energy cooperation.

French company Total is already licensed to search for hydrocarbons off Cyprus' southern coast.