Israel - Cyprus's rediscovered neighbor

Averof Neofytou Photo: Reuters

Cultivating good relations with Israel is not at the expense of Cyprus's stance on the Palestinian problem.

When, in 1994, Cyprus, under the late Glafkos Klerides’ administration, with Alekos Michaelides as Foreign Minister, opened an embassy in Israel, it set the bilateral relations of the two countries on another level. At the time, Cypriot society faced this wise, as it was proven, decision with reservations and even with suspicion. And perhaps not without justification since at the time and for decades before, public opinion was influenced by the inappropriate theory that improving relations with one country will create problems in the relations with another country. Over time this theory, emanating from the Cold War era, proved to be incorrect as International Relations operate eventually on another level, under the principle that "regardless of the relationship between two parties, a third party may maintain equally good relations with both parties."

This is precisely the path chosen by the Glafkos Clerides administration then. A path that proved to be and is until today - the better route. Subsequent Cypriot administrations have correctly continued to invest on this path, while prejudices still held as recently as just a few years ago, when protests outside the Israeli Embassy in Nicosia were a fact ... even seven or five years ago when some of us were writing supporting that Israel remained "our forgotten neighbor" with whom we have to "reconnect".

To create those relationships that will allow us to jointly benefit from a long list of areas where we can work together and create a mutually beneficial environment where relations can flourish not only at state level but especially at the level of individuals and entrepreneurs.

We live through difficult times where everyone is worried and concerned about the turbulent, inflammatory and belligerent climate in our region. Whether at the Turkish - Syria border, in Syria itself, because of the Islamic State, because of the Sunni and Shia controversy, or even because of the older bloody and violent conflicts on the occasion of the "Arab Spring".

At the same time however, and in direct contrast with what was considered in earlier decades, today no one considers that Israel is "the problem" destabilizing the region. On the contrary, in this cloudy and foggy environment of the Eastern Mediterranean, if two countries stand out, these are Cyprus and Israel. Two democratic countries, with a stable political environment and a common concern for security and balance in the region.

The efforts of the President of the Cyprus Republic and the President and Prime Minister of Israel to strengthen relations between the two countries are noticeable and are also reflected in the significant Trilateral Summit which is imminent.

Through the wise path of the Good Neighborhood policy and the empowerment of the Cyprus and Israel relations, while not weakening or altering the standing position of the Cyprus Republic in resolving the Palestinian problem, we need to walk with courage and determination. Boldly.

Because the prospects for cooperation between the two countries are not only in energy, but also in safety, health, tourism and in the areas of Research, Innovation, Technology and Agriculture, where our Israeli neighbors excel. Maintaining and strengthening good relations is what creates the potential for investment, like for example with the participation in energy, in Desalination and the interest shown for the Technology Park.

Like when years ago, at the time when the picture of Israel in the eyes of the Cypriot public opinion was "gray", I advocated for the deepening of relations between Cyprus and Israel, likewise, today, I strongly believe the further strengthening of our relations is required. We stand only to gain and we can have nothing but benefits from a parallel course with our Israeli neighbors. The cooperation and synergy opportunities arising are remarkable and important. And we must utilize them.

Averof Neofytou is president of the Democratic Rally Party of Cyprus and chairman of the House Standing Committee on Foreign and European Affairs in the Cypriot House of Representatives.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on January 10, 2016

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2016

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Averof Neofytou Photo: Reuters
Averof Neofytou Photo: Reuters
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