By Ben Niran
President Reuven Rivlin hosted Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on Monday, in the first such visit by a head of state since Rivlin took office almost a year ago.
During his two-day visit to Israel, Anastasiades also met with Greek Patriarch Theophilos III and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom he discussed energy, defense, and economy issues, as well as the Iranian nuclear threat.
“We have a common stake in battling terrorism,” Netanyahu told Anastasiades, alluding to the 2012 Cyprus terrorist plot, in which a Lebanese-Swedish Hezbollah member was arrested for planning to murder Israeli tourists. He went on to underscore the importance of confronting the issue of Iranian nuclear armament.
Rivlin, by contrast, focused on the strength of Israeli-Cypriot political and cultural relations.
Addressing his guest as “a friend, almost family,” Rivlin stressed the flourishing relationship between Israel and Cyprus, which he attributed to the two countries’ deep understanding and shared values.
“There are only few democracies in the Eastern Mediterranean, and we face many of the same challenges, at home and abroad,” Rivlin said in his speech.
He also addressed Cyprus’s role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, thanking his counterpart for his country’s help in the search for a workable solution to what he referred to as the “150 year old tragedy.” “Cyprus has always been a quiet partner for peace,” he added.
“Cyprus and Israel are geographical neighbors, which could partly account for our close relationship,” Anastiades responded in a speech released to the press. “But our friendship extends beyond that. We share common democratic values, and share many concerns, which is why we have grown to rely on each other’s assistance,” he said, echoing Rivlin’s assessment regarding the growth of relations in recent years.
Anastiades also pledged his country would continue to strive for peace in the region. “Cyprus will continue its modest contribution towards that end through active participation in the EU and the UN,” he said.
Relations between Israel and Cyprus have been close since 1994, when Cyprus opened its embassy in Tel Aviv, following a period of tension in the 1980s and early 90s. Since then, the range of interaction between the countries has been steadily expanding in many spheres, including economic, military and cultural. Anastasiades previously visited Israel in May 2013.