Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted a Cypriot invitation to address EU leaders at a future summit in Brussels on prospects for Middle East peace, in an initiative that has seen a similar invitation extended to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Netanyahu accepted the invitation extended by Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades during a one-day visit to Cyprus on Tuesday, as relations between the east Mediterranean neighbors showed signs of warming up.
Following the meeting between the two leaders at the presidential palace in the capital Nicosia, Netanyahu told reporters he plans to use the summit to convey Israel’s position regarding restarting peace talks with the Palestinians.
“We want to achieve peace. Peace is dependent on security, and ultimately if you don’t have a capacity to defend the peace, it collapses very rapidly in our area,” he said.
“But peace also depends on the willingness of parties to talk to one another and to try to put ancient issues behind them or at least resolve them in a way that they don’t prevent us from seizing the future.”
He also said he would discuss the details of the “very worthwhile” initiative to address the EU with European Council president Donald Tusk, who is set to visit Israel in a few weeks.
Netanyahu’s trip follows up on a visit by Anastasiades to Israel last month, during which he suggested that both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders make separate speeches in Europe in order to allow them to convey their positions without the “filters” of foreign ministers.
The Israeli and Cypriot leaders also discussed bolstering energy ties, following the discovery of offshore gas reserves in their respective waters, and advancing greater security and economic cooperation.
The flash trip to the Mediterranean island marked Netanyahu’s first official visit abroad since forming his government in May. He was expected to return Tuesday evening.
Until the 1990s, Israel and Cyprus maintained a strained relationship, despite their close proximity, with the island nation voicing support for the PLO and recognizing a Palestinian state.
But the past 20 years have seen the two countries improve their ties, and in 2012 Netanyahu made the first ever visit by an Israeli premier to the island.
AP contributed to this report.