Cyprus hosts UAE-Israel meet in 'changing' Mideast

Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides (far left) takes part in a joint press conference with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias, Israel's Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and advisor to the President of the United Arab Emirates Anwar Gargash Iakovos Hatzistavrou POOL/AFP

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SULAIMANI — Cyprus hosted a meeting Friday (April 16) 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 normalization of ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Gargash said ties with Israel 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 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.

"On energy, we agreed that unlocking the full energy potential of the region by enhancing the sustainable, efficient, and environmentally conscious developments of natural gas must be a priority," he added.

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 program, Ashkenazi reiterated that Israel would "do whatever it takes to prevent this radical and anti-Semitic regime from acquiring nuclear weapons."

(NRT Digital Media/AFP)