Ahead of the official visit of the President of Israel Isaac Herzog, the country’s ambassador to Cyprus Oran Anolik gave assurances that the improvement of relations between Israel and Turkey would not be at the expense of Cyprus. This was to be one of the matters discussed between President Anastasiades and President Herzog during the visit said the ambassador, adding that he wanted to send a message that “any improvement (of relations) between Israel and Turkey would not be at the expense of Cyprus or any other country.”
That the ambassador felt the need to give this assurance publicly reflects Israel’s concern about how an improvement of its relations with Turkey would be seen in Cyprus, where many take the simplistic view that our friends must not have good relations with our enemy. In Cyprus, it was thought that the frosty relations between Israel and Turkey of the last few years were a good thing as this tilted the balance of power in the region, especially in connection with the much-trumpeted trilateral alliance, which also included Greece and would pave the way for energy cooperation that has not materialised yet.
In fairness, the Cyprus government, which had been briefed about Herzog’s visit to Turkey before it had been officially announced, raised no objections. On the contrary, according to government sources, it expressed the view that it could have a positive impact for the region. During the joint news conference on Wednesday, Anastasiades said he hoped Herzog, during next week’s visit to Turkey, would convey the message that all sides needed to work constructively for the creation of the necessary conditions for talks with a view to achieving a result. Herzog said the message he would give Turkey was of the need for everyone to work together as he believed in the cooperation of all people.
There was not an inkling of bad feeling or any suggestion that the close relations and cooperation between Cyprus and Israel that both presidents spoke about in glowing terms, had been in any way affected by Israel’s effort to improve relations with Turkey. On the contrary it would appear Anastasiades sees this as a potentially positive development. Better relations between Israel and Turkey could open new possibilities with regard to energy exploitation and greater stability in the region. We believe the Cyprus government is aware of these possibilities, which could also create better prospects for a resumption of the talks. And if there is cooperation on energy between the two countries, it could be a game-changer for the region as Cyprus could also play a part.