(photo credit: Yorgos Karahalis/Reuters)
Israeli officials expressed confidence on Monday that recently reinvigorated
ties with Cyprus will continue under newly elected president Nicos Anastasiades,
who handily won Cyprus’s runoff election on Sunday.
center-right candidate who defeated a left-wing contender, is considered “very
friendly” toward Israel and made a rare visit here in January 2012 as head of
One government officials aid that it was unusual in
Cypriot politics for opposition leaders to travel abroad.
visit, Anastasiades was quoted on a blog called the Hellenic Antidote as telling
Cypriot radio that the cooperation that will develop between Israel and Cyprus
in the exploitation of hydrocarbon deposits in the exclusive economic zones will
lead to enhanced cooperation in other fields as well, including tourism,
research and commerce.
Anastasiades, according to Israeli officials,
backed the boom in Israeli- Cypriot ties that came under the watch of his
predecessor, Dimitris Christofias, a communist who in 2011 paid the first visit
to Israel by a Cypriot president in over a decade.
Israel’s ties with
Cyprus, as well as ties with its ally Greece, began to fully blossom in 2010,
following the Mavi Marmara incident.
Foreign policy played almost no role
in the Cypriot elections, with the campaign dominated by the country’s dire
economic situation and need for a financial bailout. This need for a bailout
from the EU will limit Anastasiades’s ability, even if he wanted, to becoming a
“standout” inside the EU regarding support for Israel. He needs Europe, one
official explained, and as such cannot sway too far from mainstream European
policy on any issue.
Anastasiades promised to quickly finalize a
financial rescue to stave off the island nation’s bankruptcy. Eight months of
inconclusive talks on a bailout package have turned Cyprus into a headache for
the euro zone, triggering fears of a financial collapse that would reignite the
bloc’s debt crisis.
Anastasiades immediately pledged to hammer out a
quick deal with foreign lenders and bring Cyprus closer to Europe, in a shift
from the policies of the outgoing Communist government that first sought aid
from Russia before turning to the EU.
The 66-year-old lawyer, known for
his no-nonsense style and hot temper, took 57.5 percent of the vote, 15 points
ahead of his anti-austerity Communistbacked rival Stavros Malas.
decisive outcome showed a clear mandate from Cypriots for an aggressive,
pro-bailout approach to resolving the nation’s financial quagmire, despite
growing despondency over austerity measures that will have to accompany any such
Anastasiades takes the reins of a nation ravaged by its worst
economic crisis in four decades, with unemployment at a record high of 15
Pay cuts and tax hikes ahead of a bailout have further soured
the national mood.
His most immediate task will be to appoint a finance
minister who can convince Europeans to agree a swift bailout.Reuters
contributed to this report.