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Anastasiades: Greece and Cyprus remain committed to enhancing EU-Israeli relations

08/12/2021 09:01

President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades has assured Israeli PM Naftali Bennett that both he and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis remain committed to the enhancement of EU-Israeli relations and will continue stressing the need to further advance this cooperation in the framework of the EU – Israel Association Agreement and particularly in swiftly convening the very long overdue EU – Israel Association Council.

He was speaking before the commencement of the 8th Trilateral summit of Cyprus, Greece and Israel, held in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

In statements to the media, Anastasiades said that almost two years in the pandemic, and despite the self-evident difficulties in holding physical meetings, he was pleased the trilateral cooperation “retains its momentum”.

Noting this is the 8th trilateral Summit taking place, and the first one with Prime Minister Bennett, Anastasiades said they will evaluate all aspects of the trilateral partnership; also in the light of changes, the dynamics of the region have undergone over the past year.

He further said they will exchange ideas on a broad array of issues of common interest and establish where they stand and how they take things forward, both in regional and multilateral aspects of their cooperation, in line with the Joint Declaration.

President Anastasiades said to this end that the establishment of the Permanent Secretariat for the Trilateral Mechanisms in Nicosia, which has been concluded, will streamline the coordination of all the sectoral areas of cooperation and generate the impetus for their expansion, deepening as well as their diversification as the successful example of our growing 3+1 cooperation with the US shows.

He said the discussions will also focus in areas of cooperation such as the unprecedented crisis of COVID-19 “and what we deem important is cooperation on how to handle long-term effects of COVID”. Included is also climate change and its repercussions on the countries’ natural environments, economies and way of life and he will inform of the results of the recent 2nd International Conference on Climate Change in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East which took place this past October in Cyprus.

The third issue of co-operation on which deliberations will focus is how they can be better prepared and coordinated to face emergency situations, noting “we will agree to launch a forum for security and disaster reduction and prevention”.

Underlining that cooperation in the energy sector “figures prominently on our agenda” the President remarked that the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum and the momentum it has gained, is a testament to this. President Anastasiades said he will brief his colleagues of the priorities of the upcoming Cypriot presidency of the forum, during which “we aim to promote actions which will increase the relevance of our region in the transition towards greener and more sustainable energy”.

Projects such as the EuroAsia Interconnector and the East Med Pipeline fit very well into this global discourse both for their substance, he added.

President Anastasiades said Bennett will also brief the summit on the latest developments in relation to the truly historic Abraham Accords, which have been a true game-changer in relation to the avenues of cooperation it paves in the region.

To this end, we welcome the recent agreement between Israel, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, which manifests the potential of the region as a pioneer in cross-border energy cooperation, said President Anastasiades.

He also said that both he and Premier Mitsotakis will convey to Prime Minister Bennett “our willingness to take part in common projects between the parties to the Abraham Accords”.

President Anastasiades expressed hope that the positive resumption of meaningful negotiations of the Middle East Peace Process will result in a just and viable two-state solution, which will address the legitimate security concerns of the State of Israel and will enable Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side in security and peaceful co-existence with all their neighbours.

Regarding the Cyprus problem, he said that Cyprus is “long subjected to this behaviour by Turkey, which, in total disregard of international law and norms, is practicing a revisionist policy, according to which “might is right”.

He said Ankara’s aggressive and illegal policy and planning both at sea with the violation of the exercise of sovereign rights within our Exclusive Economic Zone and on the ground is in full defiance of the special status of Varosha as prescribed with the relevant UN Council Resolutions.

Noting he will brief Prime Ministers Bennett and PM Mitsotakis on the current state-of-play of the Cyprus Problem and thank them for their support and principled stance in this regard, Anastasiades said he will elaborate on “numerous and persistent efforts to resume a meaningful and result-oriented negotiation process, as well as to the new claims by Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership for a two-state solution that run contrary to the agreed basis of the settlement, as established by the High-Level Agreements between the leaders of the two communities and the United Nations Council Resolutions”.

He also pledged that during today’s deliberations they will also discuss EU – Israel relations, where he and Mitsotakis will “assure Prime Minister Bennett that we remain committed to the enhancement of this relationship and that we will continue stressing the need to further advance this cooperation in the framework of the EU – Israel Association Agreement and particularly in swiftly convening the very long overdue EU – Israel Association Council”.

On his part, Prime Minister Mitsotakis referred to the strategic alliance between the three countries and stressed the need for the alliance to continue as it has “proven to be so useful and important in terms of ensuring cooperation between our three democracies, as a steadfast promoter of peace and prosperity and security”.

Mitsotakis said that they will have the opportunity to discuss the issue of climate change, adding that environmental protection is a very important issue for Greece. In this regard, he thanked the leaders of Israel and Cyprus for the assistance they provided in extinguishing the mega-fires that blazed in Greece during the summer.

He also said that they will discuss energy issues and referred to the importance of EastMed gas forum as a mechanism of cooperation.

Regarding Turkey`s stance, he said that it, unfortunately, demonstrated "continued intransigence and unacceptable behaviour, both on land and in the maritime zones of Cyprus" and stressed that any settlement in the fenced-off city of Varosha will "condemn any attempt for a mutually acceptable solution" of the Cyprus issue.

He also reiterated that the only viable solution to the Cyprus problem is one that fully respects all decisions taken by the UN Security Council and stressed that there can be no solution without the abolition of the anachronistic system of guarantees and rights of third parties to intervene in Cypriot affairs and the complete withdrawal of Turkish occupation troops from the island.

Mitsotakis also referred to Greece`s post-pandemic economic recovery, noting that Greece hopes for even more Israeli investments in Greece and also more tourism from Israel.

Speaking about the pandemic, he stressed the need to continue the effort to increase vaccinations and give booster shots to as many people as possible.

Prime Minister Bennett said from his part that the three countries share the values of peace, of prosperity, and pursuit of freedom, noting that “we are three vibrant democracies, bound by close geographical proximity. We are neighbors.”

He spoke of threats in the region, which he said are causes of joint concern, such as the concern for the climate, concern for the health and livelihoods of the people and the concern of security in the face of terror. “We`re pushing back on the bad forces of this region, day and night. We won’t stop for one second” he underlined.

He went on to say that the three countries are strengthening their relationships with their friends, on all levels, adding that “together we`re stronger, and our meeting today is a testimony of that.”

The Israeli PM also referred to the way the three countries are advancing their East-Med energy connection and collaborating on their fight against COVID. Moreover he spoke of expanding ties in the fields of security, economy, technology, tourism and emergency services and also referred to cooperation to combat forest fires.

“This trilateral alliance between Israel, Cyprus and Greece is good for our people, good for our countries and good for the region. It has power to do good. Nicos, Kyriakos, you are not just allies” Bennett said, calling the President of Cyprus and the PM of Greece "true friends."