Israel seeks Cypriot help in softening EU opposition to annexation
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Israel seeks Cypriot help in softening EU opposition to annexation

Foreign Minister Ashkenazi meets counterpart from Nicosia at Ben Gurion Airport, says Israel committed to proceeding ‘in a responsible and coordinated manner’

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (L) greeting his Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides at Ben Gurion Airport, on June 23, 2020. (Foreign Ministry/courtesy)
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (L) greeting his Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides at Ben Gurion Airport, on June 23, 2020. (Foreign Ministry/courtesy)

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi met his Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides Tuesday as the Jewish state sought to defuse European opposition to its plan to annex parts of the West Bank.

The pair met at Ben-Gurion Airport after plans for a larger delegation led by Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades were revised over coronavirus concerns.

“Ashkenazi asked Christodoulides for Cyprus to act as a moderating voice in discourse with European countries,” an Israeli foreign ministry statement said.

US President Donald Trump in January unveiled a plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace, giving Israel a green light to annex West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley.

Israel has said it intends to start implementing the plan from July 1, sparking international concern, particularly in the European Union.

The Palestinians have rejected the plan and are trying to rally international opposition to it.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the statement said, Ashkenazi told Christodoulides that Israel was committed to proceeding “in a responsible and coordinated manner with the various parties in the region.”

The Jewish state, he added, would do so “while maintaining Israel’s strategic and security interests, based on President Trump’s peace plan.”

Gabi Ashkenazi attends the annual Municipal Innovation Conference in Tel Aviv, on February 19, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

France, Germany, Belgium and Estonia last month urged Israel not to make “any unilateral decision that would lead to the annexation of any occupied Palestinian territory.”

But EU states have not taken a united stand against the plan, and Israeli diplomats are working to shore up support in the 27-member union.

A report Tuesday by Israel’s Army Radio cited a senior United Nations official as having told Israeli politicians Ashkenazi was working behind the scenes to hinder the plan for unilateral annexation.

Israel last week welcomed a favorable European parliament vote on an aviation treaty and the overturning of a motion to delay ratification of the accord in protest at the proposed annexation.

It said that the move had been “made possible by ongoing and intensive diplomatic work” by Israeli ambassadors in Europe.

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