Liberman: Cyprus-Israel relations ‘a win-win situation’
IMPROVING CYPRUS-Israel relations is a “win-win situation” for both countries, said Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman from Nicosia yesterday.
Speaking after a one-hour meeting with his Cypriot counterpart, Marcos Kyprianou, Liberman said the increased frequency of visits and meetings between Israeli and Cypriot ministers was “a sign of very stable and very good relations”.
Regarding the Cyprus government’s condemnation of the recent killing of four Israeli citizens in Hebron, the Israeli diplomat said: “We really appreciate your very clear message and stand regarding terrorist attacks on innocent citizens and Israel and this attempt to torpedo the (peace) talks and any attempts to resolve our conflict.”
The two ministers discussed regional cooperation, economic issues, the Middle East peace process, the Cyprus problem, Israel-EU relations and the Greek and Cypriot governments’ proposal for sending aid to Gaza,
“We think that both countries can really see a benefit from our close cooperation. It’s really a win-win situation and we will use all possibilities to improve and strengthen our bilateral relations,” said Liberman.
Kyprianou agreed, noting the two countries already enjoyed a “broad spectrum of cooperation” but that they were “looking for new areas to develop these relations even further”.
Relations were not always so warm however. Historically, Cyprus has always maintained closer ties to the Arab world and Palestinian people while Israel enjoyed excellent relations with Turkey, viewing Cyprus more as non-friendly towards Israel.
The recent souring of relations between Israel and Turkey, the latter’s growing influence, Cyprus’ failure to command support from the Arab countries, particularly within the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, and perhaps even the rapport between Kyprianou and Liberman have all worked to produce a shift in relations between the two countries.
After Cyprus twice refused access to its ports to private citizens seeking to break the blockade of Gaza by sea, Israel began seeing more in common with the Mediterranean island than before, with one source describing the two countries as having the same economic standards and commitment to the values of democracy.
Now, the Israelis are seriously considering Cyprus and Greece’s proposal to use Cyprus as a transit point, for security checks, for all cargo going direct to Gaza. While Liberman views this as a “very positive proposal”, it is believed he does not have adequate support back home to pull it off.
“Of course there are many technical problems. It’s on the table but we will continue to discuss this issue,” said Liberman.
Kyprianou confirmed that the EU-backed proposal was still on the table and will continue to be discussed.
Another key improvement in relations will be an agreement on the undersea boundaries between the two countries, as Cyprus has already concluded with Egypt and Lebanon. Both Cyprus and Israel are keen to begin drilling for what could be up to 30 trillion cubic feet of hydrocarbon resources in the sea area between them.
Liberman noted that the two were making efforts to achieve agreement and understanding on the issue, with good contacts on a technical and political level already established. “We will move forward,” he said.
His Cypriot counterpart agreed that both had a “positive approach on this issue”.
Asked about his views on the latest Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Washington, Liberman was less optimistic.
“It’s a very complicated dispute and I think that the best approach, realistic approach to our conflict is a long-term intermediate agreement,” he said.
The Israeli foreign minister argued in favour of focusing more on improving the prosperity of Palestinians and security of Israelis before tackling the more “emotional” subjects like Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, and recognition of Israel as a national state for Jewish people.
He will meet opposition leader Nicos Anastassiades this morning before heading off to Tel Aviv tonight. Less than two years ago, President Demetris Christofias was one of Israel’s most vocal critics over its invasion of Gaza. Next year he will be the first Cypriot president to visit the country.
It remains to be seen whether the “new era” in relations between the two countries is a permanent fixture or subject to the ever-changing shifts in geopolitical interests.
(Source: Cyprus Mail)
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