Once staunch critic, Cyprus now sees Israel as fighting for its survival

Cyprus no longer sees Israel as an aggressive country imposing its will by force on the Palestinians, but rather as a small nation fighting for survival in the face of much greater odds, Averof Neophytou, head of the country’s center-right ruling party said on Monday.


Neophytou, also chairman of the Foreign and European Affairs Committee in the Cypriot House of Representatives, told The Jerusalem Post that over the last decade his country – once, alongside Greece, among the most critical of Israel in Europe – now has a “clearer picture” of the Jewish state.


“It is a country of eight million fighting a struggle for survival and having to face hundreds of millions of Muslims and Arabs, part of whom don’t even recognize the right of the existence of a Jewish state,” he said. “So which side is strong, and which side is weak? Which side is fighting for survival?” Neophytou, in the country for three days meeting senior officials including President Reuven Rivlin and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, said Cypriots now identify with Israel, since it too is a small country of 800,000 people struggling for its survival. Turkey, its massive neighbor to the north, has a population of about 75 million.


For years, he said, Cyprus had the “wrong perception of Israel,” partly because it was for so long an active member of the Non-Aligned Movement, before joining the EU in 2004.


“For decades Israel was blamed for creating the instability in the region, but can anyone credibly blame Israel for the instability in Syria, the threat of Islamic State, the Arab Spring that turned into an Arab winter, or the chaos in Libya and Iraq?” he said.


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