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Lapid hosts Greek, Cypriot FMs, hails regional alliance

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (center) with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias (right) and Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides, at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, August 22, 2021. (Foreign Ministry)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (center) with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias (right) and Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides, at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, August 22, 2021. (Foreign Ministry)

Speaking at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid welcomes his Greek and Cypriot colleagues back to Israel and notes that a pragmatic alliance is emerging across the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean region.

Lapid starts out by referencing the team of 16 firefighters that Israel sent earlier this month to battle huge wildfires in Greece, the firefighting planes Jerusalem sent to Cyprus in July, and the support that both countries offered Israel during last week’s major fire in the hills west of Jerusalem.

“[US] President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said that when your neighbor’s house is on fire, you lend him your hose,” says Lapid. “Well here, between us, we lent each other planes, not only a hose.”

Lapid says the three diplomats discussed local and more distant challenges but is vague on the details.

He adds that the alliance — which includes the UAE, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, and others — is a “key part of the change that is happening in the region. A moderate, pragmatic and forward-looking alliance.”

Greek FM Nikos Dendias says they discussed civil protection, climate change, and “extremely worrying developments in the wider region.”

Referencing Lapid’s regional “circle of life” idea, Dendias decries those in the region who promote religious extremism and terrorism and use migration as a foreign policy tool.

Dendias, who accidentally calls Israel “Egypt,” takes pains to note that the Taliban said that it considers Turkey — a rival of all three countries — a partner.

Cypriot FM Nikos Christodoulides calls the meeting a “visible confirmation… of the strategic nature of this cooperation, that is here to stay.”

The guest ministers will meet later in the trip with President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Energy Minister Karine Elharrar.

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