WASHINGTON (JTA) – Israel’s "only sure corridor" to strong alliances crosses through Cyprus and the West, the island nation’s foreign minister said.
Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, addressing the American Jewish Committee’s annual Global Forum in Washington on May 3, described enhanced ties between the two nations in recent years, partly as a result of cooperation in exploring for oil and natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean.
She noted Turkish opposition to such cooperation, calling it "bullying," and said that "In Israel there is a growing sense that the only sure corridor toward friendly states lies to the west, in other words through Cyprus to the rest of Europe, and therefore the corridor must be kept open."
Kozakou-Marcoullis emphasized that she was not proposing an Israel-Cyprus military alliance, but added, "I think that it is fair to say that there are also others who read the geopolitical map in very similar ways at this time. One of them, I believe, is the United States."
Cyprus and Turkey have been at odds over the separate Turkish-ethnic entity in the island’s north since the 1974 Cyprus war that involved Greece and Turkey.
Cyprus, and to a degree Greece, have welcomed closer alliances with Israel as its longstanding closeness with Turkey has collapsed in recent years, partly the result of the antagonism toward Israel of the Islamists currently governing Turkey.
Also at the forum, John Baird, the Canadian foreign minister, told the conference that Israel has "no better friend" than Canada, and pledged that he would stand by Israel in the United Nations and other forums.
Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, told the forum that his nation — one of six major powers negotiating with Iran over its suspected nuclear weapons program — was determined to keep Iran from obtaining a bomb.
Westerwelle said Germany prefers diplomacy and sanctions for now, but that Germany’s patience for negotiations was not unlimited.
"We will not accept playing for time," he said. "We will not accept talks for the sake of talks."
Israeli leaders have expressed the concern that the negotiations will allow Iran to continue to enrich uranium until it is too late to roll back a weapons program.