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Cyprus' ruling party hopes that cooperation with China can help the eastern Mediterranean island country emerge from its financial crisis.
"We believe that if we want to overcome these (tough) problems, it's very important for us to cooperate with China," said Avelof Neofytou, executive vice-president of the Democratic Rally of Cyprus.
He made the remarks on Tuesday morning during the 4th China-Europe High-Level Political Parties Forum in Suzhou, Jiangsu province.
Avelof Neofytou, executive vice-president of the Democratic Rally of Cyprus, is interviewed during the 4th China-Europe High-level Political Parties Forum in Suzhou, East China's Jiangsu province, on Tuesday morning, April 23, 2013. [Photo/chinadaily.com.cn]
Banks on the island were shut down for nearly two weeks in March after Cyprus agreed to a 10 billion-euro ($13 billion) international bailout that forced major depositors at its two biggest lenders to pay part of the cost of the rescue.
Neofytou singled out energy as one of the potential fields for cooperation. "We have discovered a lot of natural gas in our exclusive economic zone. We plan to liquefy the national gases and export them to China, Korea and other countries… It's a good opportunity for Chinese companies in the area of energy to invest in Cyprus."
If government estimates are accurate, Cyprus may be sitting on 60 trillion cubic feet of natural gas — worth a whopping $400 billion if commercial viability is proved, according to OilPrice.com.
Investment in Cyprus can also bring about other benefits for China, according to Neofytou. "Cyprus can also be a shortcut for China for trade with the Mideast."
Cyprus is located east of Greece and south of Turkey. Upon membership into the European Union, Cyprus is being transformed into a key outpost in the Eastern Mediterranean and serves as a springboard for investments from Europe, Africa, and Asia.
When asked about concerns for its financial troubles and its bailout plan, Neofytou said the plan could benefit Chinese investors in the local property market.
"The problem with our banking sector will create more advantages for the property market. More people will invest in property instead of putting their money in the bank. So property prices will increase. Those who have already bought property or a house in Cyprus will gain."
Cyprus is the only European nation that offers permanent residency visas to Chinese who buy property worth at least 300,000 euros. It has sold more than 500 properties to Chinese buyers since May, the Cypriot embassy in Beijing said in December.
Neofytou said it is easy for Chinese immigrants to integrate into local society. "We are a small country and have good culture. When somebody invests in our country, and becomes a citizen or a permanent resident, he/she becomes a part of our country, a part of our family."