Presidency of the Republic of Cyprus

It is, as always, a pleasure to be back in Jerusalem and I wish to warmly thank Prime Minister Bennett for the hospitality extended to my delegation and myself.

Almost two years in the pandemic, and despite the self-evident difficulties in holding physical meetings, I am pleased to note that our trilateral cooperation retains its momentum.

What is equally satisfying is the fact that this is the 8th trilateral Summit taking place, and the first one with Prime Minister Bennett.

During today’s discussion we will have the opportunity to evaluate all aspects of our trilateral partnership; also in the light of changes the dynamics of the region have undergone over the past year.

We will also have the chance to exchange ideas on a broad array of issues of common interest and establish where we stand and how we take things forward, both in regional and multilateral aspects of our co-operation, in line with the Joint Declaration.

To this end, the establishment of the Permanent Secretariat for the Trilateral Mechanisms in Nicosia, which has been concluded, will streamline the coordination of all the sectoral areas of cooperation and generate the impetus for their expansion, deepening as well as their diversification as the successful example of our growing 3+1 cooperation with the US shows.

Our discussions will also focus in areas of cooperation that are very relevant to our citizens’ everyday life.

The first one is the unprecedented crisis of COVID-19 and what we deem important is cooperation on how to handle long-term effects of COVID.

The other issue is climate change and its repercussions on our natural environments, our economies and our very way of life.

Concurrently, I will inform of the results of the recent 2nd International Conference on Climate Change in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, which took place this past October in Cyprus, with the aim to establish a comprehensive Regional Action Plan for tackling climate change and its effects in our region.

The third issue of co-operation on which our deliberations will focus is how we can be better prepared and coordinated to face emergency situations and in this regard we will agree to launch a forum for security and disaster reduction and prevention.

As always, our cooperation in the energy sector figures prominently on our agenda.

The Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum and the momentum it has gained, is a testament to this. I will brief my colleagues of the priorities of the upcoming Cypriot presidency of the forum, during which we aim to promote actions which will increase the relevance of our region in the transition towards greener and more sustainable energy.

Projects such as the EuroAsia Interconnector and the East Med Pipeline fit very well into this global discourse both for their substance, but also for their strategic value in cross border cooperation in energy provision and security from the Eastern Mediterranean to continental Europe.

Prime Minister Bennett will also brief us on the latest developments in relation to the truly historic Abraham Accords, which have been a true game-changer in relation to the avenues of cooperation it paves in our region.

To this end, we welcome the recent agreement between Israel, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, which manifests the potential of the region as a pioneer in cross-border energy cooperation.

At the same time, both Kyriacos and I, as strategic partners of Israel, whilst simultaneously maintaining excellent relations with the Gulf countries, we will convey to Prime Minister Bennett our willingness to take part in common projects between the parties to the Abraham Accords.

Taking this opportunity as we talk about achieving regional security, stability and peace, we hope that the positive resumption of meaningful negotiations of the MEPP will result in a just and viable two-state solution, which will address the legitimate security concerns of the State of Israel and will enable Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side in security and peaceful co-existence with all their neighbours.

Despite the positive developments we are witnessing in our region, we are neither naïve, nor blind to the significant challenges that we still face. As ever, we are plagued by long-running conflicts that are the breeding ground for extremism and terrorism of all shapes.

Added to this, are states that act as spoilers and not only complicate more the resolution of the said conflicts, but also are actively sabotaging any effort for regional understanding.

My own country is long subjected to this behaviour by Turkey, which, in total disregard of international law and norms, is practicing a revisionist policy, according to which “might is right”.

And that is why it would be an omission not to mention Ankara’s aggressive and illegal policy and planning both at sea with the violation of the exercise of sovereign rights within our Exclusive Economic Zone and on the ground in full defiance of the special status of Varosha as prescribed with the relevant UN Council Resolutions.

In this context and in addition to the above, I will also have the opportunity to brief Prime Ministers Bennett and Mitsotakis on the current state-of-play of the Cyprus Problem and thank them for their support and principled stance in this regard.

I will elaborate on our numerous and persistent efforts to resume a meaningful and result-oriented negotiation process, as well as to the new claims by Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership for a two-state solution that run contrary to the agreed basis of the settlement, as established by the High-Level Agreements between the leaders of the two communities and the United Nations Council Resolutions.

During today’s deliberations we will also discuss EU – Israel relations, during which both Kyriakos and I will assure Prime Minister Bennett that we remain committed to the enhancement of this relationship and that we will continue stressing the need to further advance this cooperation in the framework of the EU – Israel Association Agreement and particularly in swiftly convening the very long overdue EU – Israel Association Council.

Once again, dear Naftali, I wish to thank you for your hospitality and I look forward to reciprocating it in Cyprus by hosting the next Trilateral Summit in 2022.