By Peter Stevenson
PRESIDENT of the House of Representatives Yiannakis Omirou and his Israeli counterpart, Knesset Speaker Yuli Yoel Edelstein, signed a protocol of cooperation on Monday in Nicosia.
Speaking after the signing of the protocol, Omirou announced the setting up of a Cyprus-Israeli Friendship Group in the respective parliaments.
Edelstein said that the protocol was “a testament to the joint efforts and close cooperation between our countries”, which he added “will help guide and further strengthen the connection, trust and friendship between Cyprus and Israel in the years to come.”
The Knesset speaker said that Cyprus is “the only EU country that shares a maritime border with Israel and one of our top trade partners”.
“The goal of our agreement is to bolster the ties between Israel and Cyprus, to guide work and collaboration at the highest levels of government,” he said.
Edelstein expressed certainty that Cyprus will succeed in quickly recovering from recent economic troubles and that the Cypriot economy will grow to new heights in the near future.
“It is our hope to see even further economic cooperation and greater trade and investment by Israel in Cyprus to help speed along the recovery process,” Edelstein said.
Omirou said their talks were friendly and productive, covering various issues on which they shared views, such as the necessity for the principles of international law to prevail in the region and to establish conditions of security, stability, cooperation and peace.
He added that they exchanged views on issues such as the exploitation of energy resources in the exclusive economic zones of the two countries.
Referring to the Friendship Group, Omirou said it will hold regular meetings in Cyprus and Israel, to exchange views the shared aims of prosperity, growth and democracy, and promote security, stability, peace and cooperation in the region.
Chairman of the House foreign and European affairs committee and head of DISY Averof Neophytou said that Israel today is Cyprus’ most reliable ally.
“We had a very productive meeting with the Knesset speaker which is the first time Israel’s house president has visited Cyprus,” Neophytou said following his meeting with Edelstein.
Speaking of the protocol signing, Neophytou said it is a sign of the intensification of relations between the two countries’ parliaments.
“We share the same values, respecting human rights, the rights to democracy and we are the exceptions to the rule in the area as we have a functional democracy that respects the human rights of its citizens,” he said.
Neophytou said there is the possibility of further cooperation between the two countries possibly in the field of search and rescue and not only in the field of hydrocarbons.
“Israel, our forgotten neighbour, is today, and we should realise this, our most reliable ally,” he said.