Executive Director Harris,
Esteemed guests, ladies and gentlemen,
I feel deeply moved but also particularly honored for the decision of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) to bestow upon me the highest distinction of the prestigious “Light Unto The Nations” ?ward.
A distinction attributed to personalities who have been tested and proved themselves as regards their sincere and genuine friendship towards the State of Israel.
In this respect, I feel immensely proud since I am being considered as an earnest partner and collaborator and, above all, an honest and true friend. I am grateful from the bottom of my heart to have earned such a privilege and I wholeheartedly thank you.
This Award, which I humbly accept, is a testament to our joint belief to advancing closer Cypriot-Israeli cooperation and strengthening regional synergies and transatlantic relations.
It is also a proof of the shared principles that we share, of which the Organisation substantially contributed to advancing, such as:
o Democracy and tolerance;
o Peace and Understanding;
o The fight against anti-Semitism, racism and all forms of human rights violations.
At the same time, the Organization has demonstrated that it is a trustworthy and tireless advocate of our common values and vision for the region. In this regard, it has displayed an acute awareness of the importance this relationship holds for other countries, including, primarily, the United States of America and Greece.
To this end, the AJC, through its long-standing co-operation with the Hellenic diaspora, has been instrumental and the architect of the quadrilateral partnership developed between the US, Greece, Israel and Cyprus. A partnership of strategic value which we aim to further widen and deepen.
I wish to congratulate John Shapiro on assuming the presidency of the American Jewish Committee. I am looking forward to closely working with you, dear John, in strengthening Cyprus’ relations with your esteemed organization and I wish you every success in carrying out your important duties.
I also wish to pay tribute to the wonderful work and unmatched legacy of your predecessor, Mr Stanley Bergman, and to convey all the best in his future endeavors.
Last, but certainly not least, I ought to make special reference to the remarkable work by the Executive Director, my friend David Harris. It is impossible to exaggerate the vision and the critical role that David has in forging the close relations that Cyprus enjoys with the AJC.
During his numerous visits to the island, Dave and I had many opportunities to interact and I have come to regard him as a true friend of the Cypriot people and an excellent ambassador of the close relationship between Cyprus, Israel the United States and Greece. I warmly thank you for this Dave.
? wish to, yet again, thank you for this exceptional, both to myself and my country and people, esteemed award presented to me.
Cyprus constitutes a credible Mediterranean EU neighbor that appreciates the positive agenda of EU – Israel relations, is a fervent supporter of constructive dialogue and trust – building in the Arab – Israeli relationship, holds pragmatic and prudent positions and represents an EU member state which shares sound relations with all moderate Arab partners.
Our position specifically on EU – Israeli relations is crystal clear: Israel is a very important strategic partner and a stabilizing force in the Middle East region. Cyprus will continue to be a consistent voice of moderation and advocate in support of the security of the State of Israel, and call for refraining from unilateral measures which could detrimentally affect EU – Israeli relations.
Further, we are very much aware that anti-Semitism is an evil that must be eradicated to the full, while no one can underestimate the negative repercussions it has on our democracy, security and safety – in Europe, the United States and beyond.
We do recognize that anti-Semitism has no place in a modern civilized society and we do remember fondly the thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors who passed through Cyprus and were hosted for some time on the island following the World War II.
It is for these exact reasons that Cyprus has proudly and concretely supported the fight against anti-Semitism, through, for example, the prolific participation in the AJC Mayors United Against Anti-Semitism campaign.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our partnership is open to all that share our constructive geostrategic vision. This realization is of critical value in an area faced with ongoing turmoil, ravaged by extremism, sectarianism, civil unrest and terrorism.
In this sense, our relationship and trilateral synergies developed constitute a shield of security and stability and entails stand-alone merit.
The trilateral cooperation launched between Cyprus, Israel and Greece, which covers an array of fields, including the vital areas of security and defense, maritime cooperation, and of course, energy, is of primary importance.
I am very pleased to note that it is gradually evolving from political declarations to implementation and concrete action in view of the next Summit after the Nicosia Summit of last January, to be hosted in December in Jerusalem.
Energy has indeed become one of the founding pillars of our network of trilateral cooperation frameworks in the format of Cyprus and Greece with Israel, but also with Egypt and Jordan.
This observation goes hand in hand with the fact that our mutual vision with Israel – also actively promoted by the United States – is that natural gas can become the vehicle for creating a region of unity, peace and stability, forging regional cooperation and synergies and promoting strategic interests.
You may have noticed I have not yet referred to Turkey: So it is imperative that I clarify that these synergies are not a zero sum game. On the contrary, they are of an inclusive nature and our hope remains to expand them to the greatest possible degree. Energy cooperation can serve as a perfect motive for the resolution of the Cyprus problem 42 years on.
We all understand this challenge very well: You are aware that I am fully committed in working tirelessly and in good faith with the Turkish Cypriot leader Mr Ak?nc?, towards the peaceful reunification of the island so that Cyprus can become an exemplary precedent of cooperation and co-existence worldwide.
Turkey’s contribution in concrete terms is vital in this respect, and we count on our partners and friends to relay to Ankara the value of a constructive approach, particularly on the critical issues that will determine the final outcome of the intense phase of negotiations that we are engaged in.
My aim as you know it remains simple and clear: To reach a viable, functional and comprehensive settlement, safeguarding the fundamental freedoms, rights and interests of all Cypriots.
A viable and functional solution to the Cyprus problem and one that would maintain Cyprus’ independent foreign policy would obviously be of strategic interest to Israel.
Likewise – being cognizant of the quest for peace – we fully support efforts to creating a conducive environment for direct talks and the revival of the Middle East Peace Process with the aim of a viable solution that respects and safeguards Israel’s existence and ensures stability and security.
Concurrently and as a position of principle, we clearly condemn all acts of terror, or any display of incitement to violence and hatred, wherever they originate from.
Esteemed members of the audience,
The necessity for regional cooperation as depicted above in our bilateral, trilateral and quadrilateral backbone is an exercise of confidence building and one of creating trust. And this is of tremendous geostrategic value.
Our synergies are beacons of hope, the voices of reason and an exemplary choice that can ease tensions, assist in resolving conflict and in providing a regional tool – kit for a widely beneficial code of conduct.
Towards this end, AJC’s precious support for the ever-deepening Cyprus-Israeli ties is of essence, especially as regards the strategic benefits of the relationship to the West and to the United States.
Much work still lies ahead and the challenges are numerous and complex. But with focused effort and collective determination we can succeed. I am assured that we can count on the AJC’s continued indispensable support in this collective effort.
Thank you for your kind attention and once again for the honor you have bestowed upon me.
Source: Press and Information Office.