Landmark Paphos meeting promotes regional strategic interests

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Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, Greece, Israel and UAE.- Statements to the press Almyra Hotel, Paphos,

The Israeli, Emirati, Greek and Cypriot foreign ministers Friday pledged to forge ahead with a positive agenda for regional cooperation in energy, tourism and fighting the pandemic.

Talks in Paphos on the island’s west coast was the first meeting of its kind involving the four nations to advance regional strategic interests.

Israel Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said the four countries shared “similar views” on the Middle East, and the meeting was possible because of a “bold and brave” decision to normalise Israeli-UAE ties.

He said there was a “real opportunity to change the face of the Middle East”, and the road to peace required negotiation.

Ashkenazi urged the Palestinians to “join the circle of peace”.

The UAE and Israel formalised ties last year, one of four deals the US-brokered between Israel and Arab countries.

The Israeli minister said the four-way partnership had a “clear vision of common interest” stretching from the Arabian Gulf to Europe.

The ministers discussed economic and security issues, the Iran nuclear deal, the coronavirus pandemic, and possible travel corridors to encourage tourism.

The UAE delegation is taking part by video link but represented by the UAE President’s diplomatic adviser Anwar Gargash.

“We are looking for alternative strategic views based on prosperity and stability,” said Gargash.

He said a joint effort was needed to fight covid-19 and distribute vaccines.

Cyprus said the unprecedented four-way talks, lasting into Saturday, “would take advantage of the prospects opened” by the “historic” normalisation of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates”.

“It is no exaggeration to say that our gathering in this stunning backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea is of symbolic importance,” said Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides.

“The new narrative unfolding is one that is radically different, and it is written by like-minded countries, with an exclusively positive agenda.”

The talks also follow tensions between Turkey and its neighbours over gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

“On energy, we agreed that unlocking the full energy potential of the region by enhancing the sustainable, efficient, and environmentally conscious developments of natural gas must be a priority,” said Christodoulides.