It is a distinct pleasure to welcome my dear friend, the President of the State of Israel, Mr. Reuven Rivlin, and his delegation to the Presidential Palace and to be offered the opportunity to reciprocate the warm hospitality extended during my state visit in Israel in June 2015.
Your visit Mr. President constitutes another important milestone in the relationship between our two countries, since, during our fruitful meeting we did not only reaffirm the excellent co-operation and synergies we have established both bilaterally and multilaterally, but we also exchanged views and ideas on further strengthening our mutually beneficial partnership.
Though I do not intend to dwell on the past, I need to briefly place the relationship between Cyprus and Israel in its proper context. Our relationship is truly historic.
One could refer to the historical records which illustrate the Jewish presence in Cyprus before the Roman era and the constant interaction between our peoples since then, but no reference to the historic relations of our two nations could be complete without mentioning the role that Cyprus played in the establishment of the State of Israel.
From 1946 until 1949, the British established camps in Cyprus, where more than fifty thousands of Jewish refugees, on their way to Mandatory Palestine, were interned.
The people of Cyprus, without any hesitation, embraced Jewish refugees from Europe during the shameful drama of the Holocaust and once the State of Israel was created, most of the refugees, including two thousand babies born on the island, moved to their homeland.
All these examples constitute part of our collective history, a history determined by the geography of the Mediterranean which has linked us together historically, culturally, politically and economically.
In this regard, I am extremely pleased to assess that Cyprus and Israel have now embarked in a new era of partnership. A new era based on our common vision: To substantially and strategically upgrade our relationship in all possible fields of co-operation, especially on energy, security, economy, tourism, research and innovation.
Cyprus’ foreign policy is guided by our vision of transforming our neighborhood through cooperation and establishing synergies. Within this prism, we see the development of our relations with all our neighbors as a vehicle for promoting security and stability across the entire region.
Energy is of course a strategic pillar of our cooperation which creates a very positive regional interest as proven by our joined commitment to the EastMed pipeline, a project that taps to the security of supply and energy diversification of Europe.
At the same time, we also consider the trilateral partnership we have established with Israel and Greece to be one of significant geostrategic value.
Our synergies are beacons of hope, the voices of reason and an exemplary choice that can ease tensions, assist in resolving conflict and in providing a regional tool - kit for a widely beneficial code of conduct.
During today’s discussions, I once more assured the President of Israel that Cyprus, which shares mutual principles and values with Israel, is not only a neighbour or Israel’s border with the EU, but a stable, secure, reliable and predictable friend.
Our position, specifically on EU-Israeli relations is crystal clear: Israel is a very important strategic partner and a stabilizing force in the Middle East region. Cyprus will continue to be an advocate in support of the security of the State of Israel, and calling for refraining from unilateral measures which could detrimentally affect EU-Israeli relations or even Israel’s own security.
We also exchanged views on crucial regional issues and challenges and reviewed ways of combating asymmetric threats, such as the growing surge of terrorism.
In this context, we reaffirmed our commitment to the security for our citizens and the stability of our region.
I also had the opportunity to thoroughly brief President Rivlin on the latest developments on the Cyprus Problem and the efforts of the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General to reach an agreement on the “Terms of Reference” as regards the way forward.
What is of course required is for all interested parties and stakeholders to adopt a constructive stance and engage on the basis of good will with the Special Envoy, in order to establish the necessary conditions that will allow the dialogue to resume.
I reiterated to the President that the vision of all Cypriots remains none other than to reach a viable and functional settlement that will reunite Cyprus in a truly independent and modern European State, free of any foreign dependencies.
Taking this opportunity, I wish to express the sincere gratitude and appreciation of the Government and the people of Cyprus to the President and the Government of Israel for the principled stance and important support they offer to Cyprus in our efforts to reach a comprehensive settlement in line with the UN Security Council Resolutions.
Lastly, we touched upon the state of play on the Middle East peace process and the prospects for the return to direct and meaningful negotiations. I reiterated our support to a two -state solution and peace deal that would bring about peace, stability and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians, which would benefit the entire region and its peoples.
In this respect, ensuring the security of Israel is fundamental to any plan. I also reaffirmed that Cyprus will continue its contribution towards that end through its active participation in the EU and the UN.
With these words, I want to thank you once more for your visit which has laid another foundation for even deeper cooperation between our countries for years to come, to the mutual benefit of our peoples.