Any move by Israel to improve stressed ties with Turkey won’t be at the expense of its “strategic relationship” with neighbouring Cyprus, the Israeli president assured.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog, speaking after talks with President Nicos Anastasiades on Wednesday, said he’s aware next week’s visit to Turkey has touched a raw nerve in Nicosia, which accuses Ankara of trying to place the entire island under its control.
Herzog told Anastasiades that “nothing in my visit and what would ensue will be on the account of this strategic relationship with your country.”
He said Israel seeks to strengthen relations and pursue dialogue with all nations and faiths, including Turkey that he called “a very important neighbour of ours, which has a “huge impact on our lives in many fields.”
“We have to…if possible, to lower the tension and move on in a true dialogue that would definitely include issues of climate and the economy,” said Herzog.
Over nearly five decades of peace talks have failed to reunify the divided island.
Herzog’s visit to Turkey comes as the two countries try to mend once close relations that frayed under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an outspoken critic of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.
Israel has been angered by Erdogan’s embrace of the militant group Hamas that controls the Gaza strip.
Both countries pulled their ambassadors after the death of nine Turkish activists in 2010 when Israeli commandos stormed a ship trying to break an Israeli blockade of Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid.
In 2018, Turkey again recalled its ambassador to Israel following the US decision to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem.
Herzog said he would convey to Erdogan a message of “collaboration between peoples and all faiths for the well-being of humanity.”
Cypriot-Israeli ties blossomed over the last decade following sizeable natural gas deposits in east Mediterranean waters.
The two countries have joined with Greece to look for ways to build on that energy-based cooperation, including joint projects to harness the region’s gas potential.
One such project is a gas pipeline to convey Israeli and Cypriot gas to Europe via Greece.
Although Washington has cast doubt on whether the project is economically viable and environmentally sound, Anastasiades said it could still be an option to allow Europe to diversify away from Russian gas.
“Cyprus, Israel and Greece are anchors of stability in the Mediterranean; we continue to benefit from these bonds.
“Cyprus and Israel relationship is a pillar of stability in the Mediterranean and a key to a sustainable and prosperous region in the future,” said Herzog.