Republic of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades has called off a visit to Israel next week, citing coronavirus concerns, just a day after the Greek Premier concluded his first foreign trip the neighbouring country.
According to the Cyprus News Agency, Anastasiades had a telephone conversation on Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with the two leaders agreeing to postpone the Cypriot president’s visit to Israel.
In a written statement, Government Spokesperson Kyriacos Koushos said “it was agreed that in view of developments regarding the coronavirus pandemic, it would be appropriate to postpone President Anastasiades’ visit to Israel, which had been scheduled for 23 June 2020.”
Anastasiades would have been the second head of state to visit Israel since that country closed its borders in March.
The phone call took place a day after Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis made his first foreign trip to Israel earlier this week, where he traveled on Tuesday and stayed overnight with a delegation.
Palestinian question in the mix
Mitsotakis, who held talks with Netanyahu on a wide range of topics including energy and tourism, did not travel to Ramallah, the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, but later had a phone conversation with his Palestinian counterpart Mohammad Shtayyeh. The Greek premier reiterated Athens’ position on a two state solution according to reports.
Mitsotakis extended an invitation to Shtayyeh to visit Greece after the coronavirus crisis, according to Greek media.
Netanyahu did not signal any further eases of restrictions while he might contemplate the reintroducing of lockdowns in some areas
A week earlier, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also visited Israel to voice European discontent at Israeli proposals to annex West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley. The annexation would be based on a peace plan unveiled by US President Donald Trump earlier this year.
Netanyahu has said the plan was "not annexation" but reports said it involved applying Israeli sovereignty to parts of the West Bank which contain Jewish settlements.
A foreign policy adviser for US presidential candidate Joe Biden has warned that Israeli annexation of West Bank lands would be “a huge mistake.”
Anastasiades visit to be rescheduled
The Cypriot spokesperson said it was agreed that as soon as conditions allow, a new date would be set for Anastasiades to visit Israel.
Greece, Israel and the Republic of Cyprus have been working on the creation of a “safe tourism zone” between the three countries in an effort to boost regional tourism while also tackling together public health concerns.
Netanyahu declared that Israel was planning to reopen its borders to tourism with Greece and Cyprus starting August 1, while a plane from Tel Aviv was the very first flight that landed at Larnaca International Airport on June 9, when the Republic of Cyprus reopened its airports.
But two days later, Cyprus removed Israel from a low-risk category, meaning that Israeli tourists would need to get tested for COVID-19 three days prior to boarding a flight and also carry health documents with them.
If Israel gets put back into the low-risk category, tourists from that country would not need to get tested. But Republic of Cyprus officials said the decision, which was taken following recent climbing numbers of coronavirus cases in Israel, would be updated strictly on epidemiological criteria.
Netanyahu did not signal any further eases of restrictions while Israeli media said the prime minister might contemplate the reintroducing of lockdowns in some areas.