Cyprus upgrades Palestinian diplomatic mission, risks relations with Israel

Cyprus upgrades Palestinian diplomatic mission, risks relations with Israel
# 09 February 2013 01:14 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Cyprus on Friday upgraded the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Nicosia to embassy status, at a time when the eastern Mediterranean island is seeking cooperation with Israel for joint development of natural gas, APA reports quoting Xinhua.

The announcement on the upgrade was made by Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Markoulli after talks with her Palestinian counterpart Riad al-Malki during the latter's official visit to Nicosia.

"This important decision is in line with the recognition of the Palestinian State in 1988 by the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cyprus and follows the relevant practice of seven other EU member states that have recognized the Palestinian State, also in 1988," Markoulli said.

Local media reports said Cypriot authorities are also considering to issue a licence for the operation of the Palestinian Bank on the island.

Political analysts in Nicosia said that the moves by the outgoing left-wing Cypriot government are bound to displease Israel, which is currently engaged in talks with Cyprus on joint natural gas development projects.

Both countries have discovered considerable natural gas reserves in adjoining undersea fields in the eastern Mediterranean. Projects under discussion include building a 185-kilometer long pipe to the south Cyprus shores and building a liquefaction plant to process both Israeli and Cypriot gas.

Further co-operation under discussion involves possible joint gas exploration in borderline areas.

Relations between Cyprus and Israel warmed when once close allies Turkey and Israel fell out following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident during which Israeli commandos killed Turkish activists on a Gaza bound vessel.

Cyprus had previously banned Gaza bound vessels from sailing out of its ports.

Cypriot opposition parties accused the left-wing government of outgoing president Demetris Christofias of rushing through a series of decisions and actions over the past few days, ahead of the end of his tenure following a presidential election in just 9 days.

Christofias, who has seen his popular support waning after a destructive explosion of confiscated Iranian munitions in 2011 and an application for bailout support by international lenders last year, is not contesting the election.

Opinion polls have shown that right-wing opposition leader Nicos Anastasiades would comfortably win the election, possibly in the first round on Feb. 17.

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