President Shimon Peres and his Cypriot counterpart, Demetris Christofias, both spoke of the importance of joint natural gas-related projects on Thursday, during Peres’s state visit to the island nation.

Both men said cooperation in the search for gas in the Mediterranean would have a positive effect on the economies of the region. They did not rule out the possibility of Turkey being a partner in such projects.

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“We waited for a long time to discover natural resources in the region,” Peres told his host, “and now that natural gas has been discovered within the jurisdiction of both our countries, we will deal with the matter in accordance with international law, not taking anything that belongs to someone else, on the understanding that they will not take from us that which is ours.”

Peres made it clear that the strategic alliance between Israel and Cyprus was not at the expense of any other country, nor should it be regarded as a threat to any other country.

Israel would welcome the involvement of neighboring countries, especially Turkey. He again made the point that if Turkey wanted to take advantage of this offer, it was only on the proviso that it act within the bounds of international law.

Christofias said he wanted to use Peres’s visit to Cyprus to send a message of peace and reconciliation to the Turkish leadership and to invite Turkey to join with Cyprus and Israel in naturalgas exploration and projects that derive from gas findings.

Cyprus is due to take over the rotating presidency of the European Union in the second half of 2012. In light of this, Peres and Christofias agreed to set up a joint strategic team to find ways in which to improve cooperation between Europe and the Middle East, and to strengthen those moderates in the Middle East who are trying to establish a new era of freedom and democracy.

The two presidents also discussed what further role Europe could play in efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Peres praised the Palestinian leadership, saying that it was a good partner for peace negotiations.

During the visit, agreements were signed between the two countries on communications, research and development and archeology.

Peres met with several Cypriot dignitaries including Archbishop Chrysostomos, House of Representatives President Yiannakis Omirou and main opposition leader Nicos Anastassiades.

Security was beefed up in Cyprus for the two-day visit, various media outlets in Cyprus reported.

According to the Cyprus Mail, police took what they called “draconian” security measures in preparation for the visit by Israel’s president.

In addition to mounting a special operations force spearheaded by the MMAD anti-terror squad, the police had a helicopter monitoring all of Peres’s movements. All security measures were coordinated with the Cypriot presidential guard and with Israeli security officials who accompanied Peres to Cyprus.

Peres was initially scheduled to visit Cyprus in July, but the trip was deferred.

Immediately following his return, on Friday, Peres will join the Rabin family in Tel Aviv at 1 p.m. at the monument at the site of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination 16 years ago, and will lay a wreath. The Rabin family observes both the Gregorian and Hebrew calendar dates of Rabin’s death, and will travel to Jerusalem next week for the annual memorial ceremony at the President’s Residence that is held in accordance with the Hebrew calendar date.

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