Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet on Sunday morning with new Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, who said before the visit that strengthening ties with Israel is one of his government’s most important initiatives.

Netanyahu will meet Anastasiades shortly before leaving for a five-day trip to China.

The Cyprus Mail quoted Anastasiades as saying the aim of the visit was to begin a “to-the-point dialogue that can lead to collaboration between the two countries that will benefit both peoples in many areas, among them of course the exploitation of natural resources.”

Anastasiades arrived on Thursday evening for a twoday private visit to attend Orthodox Easter ceremonies, before beginning the official part of his visit on Sunday.

According to the Cyprus Mail, Anastasiades has said in the past that his financially strapped country was pinning its economic recovery on its natural gas. Cooperation with Israel in this field, therefore, is extremely important.

The visit comes amid speculation of whether the possibility of improved Israeli- Turkish ties as a result of Netanyahu’s recent apology over the Mavi Marmara incident might put a brake on Cypriot-Israeli ties. Those ties, as well as Israel’s relations with Greece, blossomed as Turkish-Israeli ties withered over the last three years.

Netanyahu paid the first-ever Israeli prime ministerial visit to Cyprus last year.

One government official said that Cyprus and Israel were two democratic countries in the eastern Mediterranean, and their relationship was not dependent on ties with other countries.

Shortly after Netanyahu’s apology to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in late March, Deputy Ambassador to Cyprus Shani Cooper was quoted in the Cyprus Mail as saying that the “the normalization of relations between Turkey and Israel was an important bilateral step but it will not affect any multilateral, trilateral or bilateral relations between Israel and other countries.

Israel will maintain its close relations with Cyprus, and continue strengthening them as we have done the last few years.”

Anastasiades’s trip to Israel comes just a couple weeks after the country’s Commerce Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis visited the country.

Cypriot Defense Minister Fotis Fotiou arrived on Thursday and met with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon for discussions that included dealing with securing both countries’ off-shore natural gas tracts. Two weeks ago, Israel and Cyprus carried out a joint Search and Rescue drill north of Limassol.

In addition to meeting Netanyahu, the Cypriot president will meet Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and President Shimon Peres, visit Yad Vashem, speak to a Cyprus-Israel business forum in Tel Aviv, and meet with Theophilos III, the patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem.

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