Cyprus Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides has called for the establishment of a regional organization for security and cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean, adding that no country – including Turkey – should be excluded from the process.
“We don’t exclude anyone, even Turkey,” Christodoulides told a panel discussion as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the largest pro-Israel lobby in the US, held its annual meeting in Washington on Monday.
“Unfortunately, we cannot change geography. Turkey will always be there as a neighbor of Cyprus, Greece and Israel. Turkey with its behavior excluded itself from our discussions. If Turkey wants to join these discussions, it is up to Turkey to have good-neighboring relations and to respect the sovereign rights of the countries in the region,” Christodoulides told the panel, which also included Kathimerini executive editor Alexis Papachelas and Endy Zemenides, executive director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council.
Christodoulides hailed the progress achieved during the recent trilateral Cyprus-Greece-Israel summit in Jerusalem, adding that the participation of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was a “clear message” of Washington’s political backing.
He said it was time to “take a further step,” to institutionalize the trilateral partnership by setting up a regional cooperation organization for security and cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“It is actually the only region in the world that doesn’t have a regional organization,” he said.
In his comments, Papachelas underlined the progress in Greek-Israeli ties, adding he expected the policy to enjoy a cross-party consensus.
“Many of the taboos that we had in Greece, that we are simply a pro-Arab country with no deeper ties with Israel, are now gone,” Papachelas said.
“It is striking that the policy was supported by a leftist government, in spite of its earlier positions. In my view, consensus on this in Greece has matured,” he said, adding that a similar paradigm shift is to be observed in Greek-US relations.
Zemenides noted that Senator Robert Menendez and Congressman Ted Deutch will soon unveil a “very aggressive bill on the Eastern Mediterranean which will be very much in favor of Israel, Greece and Cyprus.”