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‘Historic’ visit to Israel
CYPRUS is keen to further boost ties with Israel, particularly in the energy sector, President Demetris Christofias said yesterday, the second day of his state visit to the Middle Eastern nation.
“The recent signing of the agreement demarcating the Exclusive Economic Zones between Cyprus and Israel is a significant development, one that I believe will lead to promoting cooperation between the two nations in the field of energy,” Christofias said at a news conference following a working meeting with Israel’s President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem.
During the course of the meeting, two cooperation agreements were signed between the countries: one in the field of education - an agreement between the University of Tel Aviv and the Cyprus Institute, and the second a financial one - an agreement between the countries’ stock exchanges. The two sides also agreed on the expansion of cooperation in the fields of energy, specifically in the field of gas, and of cooperation in the field of agricultural science and technology.
Prior to the start of the meeting, Christofias handed President Peres a picture album of Jewish refugees depicting Holocaust survivors who were kept in camps in Cyprus before travelling on to Israel during the British mandate period.
He said he hoped his visit would open up new avenues for mutually beneficial cooperation between the two nations and their peoples.
“We are close to one another in the problems we face,” Christofias noted.
In turn, Peres called the visit a “historic event” in relations between the two countries, noting that there was tremendous scope for cooperation.
“There is treasure to develop, natural gas,” Peres said in turn, noting that cooperation between Cyprus and Israel should not be construed as being directed against the interests of any other country.
Israeli company Delek has proposed a partnership with Cyprus to build a facility to process and export natural gas from Israel’s Leviathan prospect. It was not clear what, if any, contacts would take place between Delek and the Cypriot delegation in Israel.
Christofias is being accompanied by Foreign Minister Marcos Kyprianou and Commerce Minister Antonis Paschalides. He leads a delegation of 60 Cypriot business people.
Christofias briefed Peres on the latest development on the Cyprus reunification talks, and the two discussed the Middle East peace process as well as regional developments including the unfolding political unrest in the Arab world.
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Christofias said: “Cyprus would like to contribute to the strengthening of the peace process in the Middle East, first and foremost to the acceleration of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.”
He said Cyprus supports the establishment of an independent Palestinian state side-by-side with Israel, as well as Israel's right to security and stability.
“We are very well aware of the right of Israel to live next to peace-loving neighbours,” he added.
The President also condemned the “barbaric killing” over the weekend of five members of an Israeli family in a northern West Bank settlement.
Last night Christofias was the guest of honour at an official dinner hosted by Peres.
At noon, during a meeting between the Cypriot delegation and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the two governments signed cooperation protocols between their respective foreign ministries and concluded an agreement for collaboration in the postal services sector.
Earlier, Christofias held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who thanked Cyprus for its assistance in combating a massive blaze that broke out in northern Israel last December.
“You were the first I called,” Netanyahu told Christofias, adding: “You responded immediately. That is an indication of friendship.”
Christofias’ itinerary included a visit to the Yad Vashem Museum – the memorial to the victims of the Holocaust – and a tree-planting ceremony at the Grove of Nations. He will also attend and address an Israel-Cyprus business forum in Tel Aviv.
Israeli tensions with Turkey last year prompted a re-think in Israel’s ties with Cyprus. Last summer the government put a stop to aid convoys sailing from Larnaca to Gaza.
Today the President is scheduled to hold talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank town of Ramallah, and will meet with the Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III. He returns to the island today.