President Shimon Peres with Cypriot FM Ioannis Kasoulide..
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
Relations between Israel and Cyprus are at an unprecedented level of cooperation and have been developing fast, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulines said in the course of a visit with President Shimon Peres at the president’s official residence on Wednesday.
It was the second time that Kasoulines had called on Peres in 11 months.
In welcoming Kasoulines to the residence, Peres said that Israel has been following Cyprus’s struggle with its economic crisis and was impressed with the manner in which it was extricating itself.
Israel is now waiting to see whether the island state can now be united after having been split for many years, said Peres, noting that Cyprus had been the first island to join the European Union.
A united Cyprus can play an important role in the EU, he said.
Last week, the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders decided to re-launch their peace negotiations. “I don’t know where you stand in your negotiations or where we stand in ours, but we hope that we shall see peace in Cyprus and in the Middle East,” said Peres.
The president also expressed his pleasure that relations between Cyprus and Israel are on the upswing. It had always been paradox to him he said, that the two countries had been so close geographically and so far away politically.
In the past, health cooperation between the two countries was stronger than political cooperation, he said.
He also suggested that more could be done in making use of hi-tech, which in his view had been too busy with entertainment and communications and paid insufficient attention to health and education.
“To be members of the EU is not enough,” said Kasoulines who underscored the importance of making the EU part of the region and to thereby promote cooperation and peace.
Israel would have a major portion in this he said, noting that anti-Semitism, terrorism and nuclear proliferation exist in Europe, and that “asymmetric threats spare nobody.”
In this respect, he said, there is excellent cooperation between Cyprus and Israel on security issues. There is also good cooperation in other areas, such as energy, water management and science and technology.
Illustrating the ongoing closeness between the two countries, Kasoulines said that only a few months ago, a Hebrew University of Jerusalem Studies program had been inaugurated at the University of Cyprus.