Despite the brevity of his visit – barely a day – President Reuven Rivlin received a full ceremonial welcome at the Presidential Palace in Larnaca from President Nicos Anastasiades of Cyprus on Tuesday morning.
After the two presidents reviewed the honor guard, Rivlin laid a wreath at the statue of the late Archbishop Makarios, who was his country’s first president after it gained independence from the Britain in 1960.
After lunch Rivlin flew to Nicosia, where some 52,000 Jews – nearly all of them Holocaust survivors – had been interned by the British who would not allow the illegal immigrants to disembark from the ships which brought them from displaced persons camps in Europe to the Promised Land.
During the period of detention, 2,200 Jewish babies were born in Cyprus, many of them in the British Military Hospital, which is now an army camp for Cypriot soldiers. A monument to the babies born to Holocaust survivor parents in Cyprus stands in the camp.
At the ceremony there, Rivlin said that the story of the immigrants is a story of heroism and hope – the hope that helped them realize the dream to eventually get to Israel.
Cypriot government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said that this was the third visit to Cyprus by a president of Israel. The first had been by Ezer Weizman in 1998, and the second by Shimon Peres in 2011.
Rivlin’s visit to Cyprus is within the context of the trilateral agreement between Israel, Cyprus and Greece, and the mutual efforts on all three sides to upgrade their relations with each other.
Rivlin said that as a result of the close cooperation between Israel and Cyprus, the Mediterranean has become much safer. He emphasized that security ties between the two countries have never been better.
“The Israel-Cyprus partnership is an island of friendship, democracy and creativity, in the often stormy Mediterranean Sea,” said Rivlin, adding that though blessed with much potential for productive partnerships, the region has in recent years been beset by suffering and conflict.
In reference to the trilateral agreement with Greece, Rivlin said that the three countries aim to form a shared economy based on the flow of energy, information and electricity. The prime focus at the present time, he said, is on developing the eastern Mediterranean pipeline.
“This could be one of the great underwater projects in the world,” Rivlin enthused, noting that the partnership can be expanded to include Italy, Egypt and Jordan – and even the Palestinian Authority.
Anastasiades noted the joint commitment by Cyprus and Israel to the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline project, which he said would diversify Europe’s hydrocarbons supply and bolster its energy security.
“Our synergies are beacons of hope,” said Anastasiades.
Israeli-Cypriot relations have blossomed in the last decade following gas discoveries in waters off both countries.