Cyprus gets new foreign minister in cabinet shake-up

Cyprus gets new foreign minister in cabinet shake-up

Nicosia (AFP) – Cyprus will have a new foreign envoy but keep the same finance minister, it was announced Tuesday, as the country seeks to restart unity talks and boost its economy.

The cabinet reshuffle comes after President Nicos Anastasiades won re-election for a second term earlier this month on promises of resuming negotiations to unify the Mediterranean island and cementing a fragile economic recovery.

Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides will take up the key post of foreign minister in the new administration to be sworn in on March 1.

The 44-year-old joined the diplomatic corps in 1999 before serving as government spokesman from 2013.

He was widely expected to be given the position after veteran diplomat Ioannis Kasoulides, 69, decided to retire from office.

Finance Minister Harris Georgiades is to keep his job after having navigated Cyprus out of a painful bailout deal, while George Lakkotrypis remains in charge of energy and a booming tourism sector.

Since his re-election on February 4, Anastasiades, 71, has sought to appoint ministers of wider public acceptance and without strong political allegiances.

He has added one woman to the cabinet, with parliamentary official Vasiliki Anastasiadou to become transport and communications minister.

But the new 11-member cabinet will still only include two women.

Other new faces include lawyer Savvas Angelides as defence minister. 

Education ministry official Costas Hambiaouris has been promoted to minister, while businessman Constantinos Ioannou is tasked with introducing the new national health scheme as health minister.

Anastasiades has pledged fresh talks to end the nearly 44-year partition between the Greek-majority Republic of Cyprus in the south and a Turkish-backed statelet in the north.

UN-backed negotiations collapsed in July last year after coming closer than ever to sealing a deal. 

In his first term, Cyprus made an impressive recovery from a 2013 financial crisis after he agreed to a harsh 10-billion euro (more than $12-billion) bailout.