By Andria Kades
PRESIDENT Nicos Anastasiades traveled to Palestine and Israel on Friday discussing a water resource management project with the former and a tripartite meeting between Cyprus, Greece and Israel with the later, expected to be held on the island in January.
Welcoming Anastasiades, the Israeli prime minister said “it’s a pleasure seeing you again. We have such close relations, we are very close in geography, in values, in interests, in spirit.”
According to Benjamin Netanyahu, the agenda included trade, energy, and tourism.
Anastasiades said, “the deliberations always help furthering our relations and I am sure that we are going to be, as always, on the same track.”
The two leaders held a private meeting which was followed by talks between the delegations of the two countries.
The meeting between Cyprus, Greece and Israel is expected to take place in the third week of January in Nicosia, while Israel’s minister of tourism is expected to visit the island to discuss code-shared flights to China and the US.
The leaders agreed that as far as energy is concerned, the benefits for the region are twofold if all interested parties in the region agree to cooperate.
Netanyahu, in an act of gratitude for Cyprus’ help in 2010 during the fires in Haifa, said he had placed 13 fire planes trained to deal with similar incidents, at Nicosia’s disposal.
Should Cyprus ask for help, the planes would be on the island within half an hour, Netanyahou said. “All 13 planes are at your disposal.”
Anastasiades briefed Netanyahu on the progress in negotiations for the Cyprus problem, Turkey’s role and said although there were some issues, progress was to be seen in the coming period.
The Cypriot president also conveyed a message to Netanyahu from the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to which he received a response he passed on to Abbas during his next stop.
Arriving in Ramallah, Anastasiades visited Yasser Arafat’s mausoleum and laid a wreath.
“This is my first official visit to the State of Palestine and I am grateful for the warm welcome and hospitality I have received from President Abbas and the friendly people of Palestine,” Anastasiades said.
Abbas said the visit was “greatly appreciated and respected by the Palestinian people and we are quite confident that this visit will contribute to establishing and enhancing the foundations of cooperation and friendship between our countries which have a promising and great future.”
Following a private meeting between the two leaders and expanded talks between the two delegations, Cyprus Foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides, his Palestinian counterpart Riyad Maliki and water authority chief Mazen Ghoneem signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation on water resources management.
The MoU outlines Cyprus will draw up a master plan to manage water resources in the West Bank which will take into consideration agricultural and household needs for water in the future.
Meanwhile, the two sides also signed an agreement for a joint intergovernmental committee which Anastasiades said reflects the political determination of the two sides to meet regularly and deepen their cooperation.
“Our long-standing joint aim, as evident again through today’s meeting with President Abbas, is to continue enhancing our co-operation at the bilateral level and advancing our collaboration at the regional level, with the overall goal of widening our levels of engagement, to the benefit of our two peoples,” he added.
On the conflict between Palestine and Israel, Anastasiades said he “repeated Cyprus’ principled stance in support of a just and comprehensive resolution of the Palestinian issue, based on the two state solution, with the State of Israel and an independent, democratic, sovereign and viable State of Palestine, living side by side in peace, security and mutual recognition”
He is expected to return to Cyprus on Saturday.