Cyprus, which over the last two years has significantly improved ties with Israel, became the first western European country in the EU outside of Malta to upgrade its Palestinian representation to that of an embassy on Friday.
"This important decision is in line with the recognition of the Palestinian State in 1988 by the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cyprus," Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs Erato Kozakou Markoullis said during a visit by Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki.
She said the move was "in line with Cyprus' 1988 recognition of the State of Palestine," and "follows the relevant practice of seven other EU member states that have recognized the Palestinian State also in 1988, namely, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Malta." Ironically, the Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Poland – all former Iron Curtain countries -- are currently among Israel's strongest supporters inside the EU.
Jerusalem had no response to the Cypriot move.
Israel’s relations with Cyprus, as well as with Greece, skyrocketed with the sharp deterioration in Israel’s ties with Turkey following the Mavi Marmara
incident in 2010, although Israeli officials have said the reason for the dramatic change was not only Turkey, but also economic and other mutual interests such as cooperation in the field of hydrocarbons.
Cyprus voted for the Palestinian upgrade at the United Nations last November to that of non-member observer state
Malki hailed the "historic decision" and urged other countries to follow Cyprus' example.
According to a report in the Cyprus Mail
, Marcoullis said "Cyprus will remain on the side of Palestine.”