DIMITRIS CHRISTOFIAS 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias arrived on Sunday night for the first
visit by a Cypriot head of state in 11 years, reflecting ties that have improved
proportionate to the degree to which Israel’s relations with Turkey have
Ties with Cyprus and Greece have improved markedly over the
past two years, as a frigid wind has blown through ties between Jerusalem and
Ankara. At the beginning of the last decade Greece and Cyprus were widely
considered among the most – if not the most – unfriendly countries toward Israel
Along with a marked warming trend with Cyprus and Greece,
there has also been a strengthening of relations in recent years with Romania
and Bulgaria, two other historic rivals of Turkey.
The improvement of the
ties with Cyprus was manifest in Cyprus’ position regarding protest flotillas
setting sail for Gaza. Cyprus has consistently refused to let these ships set
sail from its ports.
The relationship between the two countries is even
more interesting considering that the left-wing Christofias is Cyprus’s first,
and the EU’s first and only, communist leader – by no means a natural fit for
Israeli’s Likud-led government.
Christofias will be in the country for
two days, accompanied by his Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou, his Minister of
Commerce, Industry and Tourism Antonis Paschalides, and a large business
delegation that will host a seminar in Tel Aviv.
Cypriot officials, while
acknowledging that the deterioration of Israel-Turkish ties have played an
important role in Israel and Cyprus getting closer together, said that other
elements were also involved, including a business relationship that the
officials said has “exploded” over the last several years.
exports to Cyprus is primarily in the hitech field, Cyprus provides Israeli
businesses with a number of financial services, with numerous Israeli companies
registered in Cyprus to enable them to do business with the Arab
Security and defense-related cooperation has also increase
significantly, Cypriot officials said, without providing details.
officials said that the improved attitude toward Israel is also attributed in
some part to the fact that thousands of Cypriots have come to Israel over the
last 15 years, a good number of them for medical reasons. The officials said
20-30 Cypriots receive treatment at the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer and
Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem at any given time. Likewise, the
official said, a number of Cypriot doctors receive their training in
In advance of the visit, the Cypriot Embassy issued a communiqué
saying that “for thousands of Israelis and Cypriots, the burgeoning of relations
between the two states represents an official acknowledgment of something which
started many years ago on a people to people level. Jewish communities
flourished in Cyprus during ancient times, and over the past two millennia, Jews
often found refuge in Cyprus.
In more recent history, many Jewish
immigrants remember the support and warmth of the Cypriot people during their
incarceration on the island by British forces, and with independence in 1948,
many Israelis have become regular visitors to Cyprus, or have transformed Cyprus
into their second home.”
Christofias is scheduled to meet with President
Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor