Palestinians “take seriously” Cyprus’s offer to mediate with the aim of resuming stalled peace talks with Israel, Cypriot foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides said following Tuesday’s summit in Nicosia.
During comments to the press at the presidential palace, Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades said, before making this proposal, that his country’s close relations with Israel do not exclude ties with the Palestinian people. He said a settlement must adhere to the “two-state solution”, international law and the UN Charter.
He called for trilateral talks involving Cyprus, Palestine and Greece modelled on those of Cyprus, Greece and Israel. Drawing a parallel between the occupations of Cyprus and Palestine, Mr Anastasiades spoke of Turkey’s invasion of the north of the island which followed a 1974 Greek coup against the government in Cyprus.
President Mahmoud Abbas thanked Cyprus for recognising the Palestinian state following the 1988 declaration of independence and for supporting the Palestinian people in their struggle to gain independence. He decried the failure of efforts to achieve the two-state solution while Israel continues “settlement activities and interferes with Muslim and Christian churches and mosques” in the occupied Palestinian territories. Mr Abbas vowed to maintain contacts with Cyprus on regional security and efforts to end “the crime of occupation”.
Palestine has an embassy in Nicosia and Cyprus a representative to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, headed by Mr Abbas.
Memoranda of understanding were signed on climate change, development, and co-operation in fighting fires which afflict the Mediterranean basin countries every summer. The sides agreed on the establishment of a regional base for this purpose.
Mr Abbas’s three-day visit to the island comes close on the heels of Israeli military exercises in the wooded mountains of the Paphos district. Thousands of Israeli combat troops, support teams, warplanes and naval vessels conducted a week-long exercise designed to replicate conditions along Israel’s northern border.
Units of the Cyprus national guard participated to “increase [their] level of defence readiness”, the Cypriot foreign ministry stated, adding that the exercise was “based on fictitious scenarios and not targeting any other country in the region” — although Israel’s northern border is with Lebanon. The influential Cypriot communist party Akel condemned the exercises while Paphos residents complained of disturbance caused by the manoeuvres.
Ties between Cyprus and Israel have grown in recent years due to the alliance of Cyprus, Israel, Egypt and Greece which was created to develop offshore oil and natural gas reserves. Cyprus seeks secure access and exploits resources as its efforts have been stymied by Turkey which has sent drill vessels protected by warships to explore for oil and gas off the island’s coast and threatened Cypriot operations.