Israeli President Isaac Herzog traveled to the Republic of Cyprus on Wednesday to reassure Nicosia their “strategic relationship” would not be torn down in light of his impending visit to Turkey, with the guest joining his host Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades in condemning Russia over Ukraine and a strike near a Jewish memorial.
Herzog, who is also expected to travel to Athens, paid an official visit to the island before his upcoming trip to Turkey next week, when he will become the first Israeli leader in more than a decade to officially set in motion a potential rapprochement with Ankara.
“Nothing in my visit and what would ensue will be on the account of this strategic relationship with your country,” Herzog told Anastasiades.
Israel and Turkey have been working to lower tensions and improve relations following a series of events and diplomatic faux-pas.
“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.
Anastasiades accused Turkey of resisting efforts to resume a “meaningful and result-oriented negotiation process” and asked Herzog to convey the message to Ankara that it remained vital for all stakeholders involved to work constructively towards that goal.
'Nothing in my visit and what would ensue will be on the account of this strategic relationship with your country' Herzog told Anastasiades
Herzog also joined Anastasiades in condemning Russia over the war in Ukraine, saying the Israeli government reaffirmed its support for Ukraine’s national integrity and joined the international community in supporting the resolution at the UN General Assembly.
The Israeli president, whose family history and connections are tied to Cyprus, said a Jewish memorial in a village outside Kiev was bombed a day earlier by the Russians.
Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelensky was seen in a video on Wednesday being told by an associate on camera during an interview that the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center had been hit.
But it was not clear whether and to what extent the memorial was damaged by a Russian precision air strike, which appeared to have struck Kiev’s main radio and television tower.
The memorial is reportedly close to the station and Zelensky said at least five people were killed in the area.
“Israel is working to help advance a diplomatic solution in Ukraine and has offered its services to this end,” Herzog said, adding that his country has sent 100 tons of humanitarian aid as a moral obligation.
Anastasiades said Cypriots too related “very closely to the plight of the Ukrainian people as we, ourselves, have been victims and are still suffering from the tragic consequences of the 1974 Turkish invasion.”
“As such, it goes without saying that we have joined our voice with that of our partners in the EU and beyond in condemning the Russian invasion and in taking steps for assisting the Ukrainian people in these critical moments," he said.
Cyprus bets on trust amid Turkey-Israel flirt
Last month Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said Nicosia was confident it won’t be sidelined as Herzog prepared for his historic trip to Ankara, with the seasoned diplomat noting the Israeli president would be popping in for a visit to Cyprus and Greece before traveling to Turkey.
Cyprus has been divided for half a century with Anastasiades presiding over the Republic of Cyprus in a globally-recognized Greek Cypriot south while Turkish Cypriots in the north are only recognized by Turkey.
Turkish troops landed in Cyprus in 1974 following a short-lived Greek-inspired coup, splitting the island in two parts while UN efforts to reunify the country under a federal umbrella have failed.
Decades earlier Herzog’s maternal grandfather was one of the co-founders of Cyprus Phassouri Plantations in the 1930’s while his paternal grandfather had been involved in the repatriation to Israel of Jewish Holocaust survivors who had been held in British camps on the island in 1947 and 1948.