Cyprus hosts UAE-Israel meet in ‘changing’ Mideast

Cyprus hosted a meeting Friday of top diplomats from Israel and the UAE, as well as Greece, for talks they said reflected the “changing face” of the Middle East.

“This new strategic membership stretches from the shores of the Arabian Gulf” to the Mediterranean and Europe, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told a news conference in the coastal resort city of Paphos.

Standing alongside Anwar Gargash, advisor to Emirati President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, he said their encounter was a sign of “the changing face of the Middle East”.

He called for a “strategic partnership in energy between the Eastern Med and the Gulf”, following last year’s historic normalisation of ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Gargash said ties with the Jewish state amounted to an “alternative strategic view” aimed at bolstering regional security, adding that the Paphos talks covered economic and political cooperation, as well as “using technology to fight Covid”.

The Cypriot and Greek foreign ministers, unmasked before a backdrop of the Mediterranean, both stressed the new regional grouping was open to all parties.

“The path is open for all countries of the region to join us,” said host Nikos Christodoulides, without a direct mention of Turkey, whose troops occupy the northern third of Cyprus and which is in dispute with Nicosia and Athens over gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, who has visited both Turkey and Libya over the past week, stressed calls for “the withdrawal of all foreign forces” from the North African country, where Turkish troops are posted.

On Iran and its controversial nuclear programme, Ashkenazi reiterated that Israel would “do whatever it takes to prevent this radical and anti-Semitic regime from acquiring nuclear weapons”.