Visiting Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias condemned the murder of the five members of the Fogel family “by someone inhuman” and voiced his condolences to President Shimon Peres and the people of Israel on Monday.

Christofias was speaking to journalists following a working meeting with Peres at Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel, where a cooperation agreement and a memorandum of understanding were also signed between Cypriot and Israeli institutions.

Prof. Yosef Klafter, president of Tel Aviv University, signed a cooperation agreement with Prof. Costas N. Papanicolas, president of the Cyprus Institute, after which Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Chairman Saul Bronfeld and Managing Director Ester Levanon signed an MOU for cooperation and exchange of information with George Koufaris and Mondas Metaxas, chairman and managing director, respectively, of the Cyprus Stock Exchange.

Both agreements were signed in the presence of Peres and Christofias.

In welcoming Christofias to Israel, Peres noted the historical importance of the event and the political and geographic proximity between Cyprus and Israel.

“Nothing politically divides Cyprus from Israel,” he said. “We were never enemies, and we often cooperated in a friendly way.”

Peres expressed gratitude to Cyprus for having hosted Holocaust survivors and also for the assistance that Cyprus gave to Israel during the recent raging fires in the Carmel. He was also appreciative of the stand Cyprus took on the flotillas trying to break through Israel’s naval blockade to Gaza: The Cyprus government banned ships sailing to Gaza from its shores.

Current areas of cooperation between Israel and Cyprus include medicine and agriculture, and may soon include the introduction and use of natural gas. The latter was mentioned by both presidents, and journalists traveling with the Cypriot president were particularly interested in Israel’s official policy on cooperation in the development of natural gas outlets.

Noting that Cyprus would take over the rotating presidency of the European Union from July to December 2012, Peres said he hoped that this would lead to increased cooperation not only on a bilateral level, but also within the EU, especially in the fields of science and technology.

Comparing the internal and external problems of both countries, Peres said that if it were up to Christofias, Cyprus would be a united island with equality for all, but like Israel, it was dealing with a situation not of its making.

“We were forced into a conflict that we didn’t want,” said Peres. “We are much more interested in having a peaceful Palestinian state.”

If that were the case, he added, incidents such as Friday night’s brutal slaying in Itamar would not be repeated in future.

Christofias said he was interested in further developing the multifaceted relationship between the two countries and in seeing Israel’s achievements firsthand.

Cyprus established diplomatic relations with Israel immediately after the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus in August 1960, Christofias recalled. Relations between the two countries have seen considerable qualitative and quantitative improvements over the last three years, including the signing of several bilateral agreements and memoranda. Among these was the delimiting of the two countries’ respective Exclusive Economic Zones, which Christofias regarded as “an important development” that hopefully would lead to further cooperation in the field of energy.

Cyprus still faces many adversities stemming from Turkey’s invasion of part of the country in 1974, said Christofias, adding that Cypriots had never abandoned their efforts at reunification.

He said his country aimed to achieve a just, viable and functional solution that would reunify the state, the people, the institutions and the economy on the basis of the principles of international law and in the context of a bizonal, bi-communal federation with political equality for all. Christofias emphasized his readiness to pursue every avenue “that will result in one state with one and indivisible sovereignty, one international personality and one citizenship – a state where human rights will be fully respected.”

The two presidents also discussed the recent eruptions throughout the Middle East. Christofias voiced the hope that obstacles would be overcome, and the peace process resumed and concluded with a comprehensive solution that would bring about peace, stability and prosperity not only for Israelis and Palestinians, but for the whole region. “We believe that a solution to the Palestinian issue can be achieved by peaceful means,” said Christofias.

Peres had initially intended to headquarter himself at the King David Hotel while Beit Hanassi was being refurbished, and last week held talks with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera in one of the lounges off the main lobby.

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