J'lem confident Cyprus will maintain friendly ties

After Mavi Marama and blossoming of relations with Cyprus, Israeli officials say newly elected president will continue cooperation.

Nicos Anastasiades (photo credit: Yorgos Karahalis/Reuters)
Nicos Anastasiades
(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.
Anastasiades, a 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 the opposition.
One government officials aid that it was unusual in Cypriot politics for opposition leaders to travel abroad.
Following that 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.
The 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 rescue.
Anastasiades takes the reins of a nation ravaged by its worst economic crisis in four decades, with unemployment at a record high of 15 percent.
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.