Israel agrees to more co-operation with Cyprus and Greece amid Turkey tensions

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Israel agrees to more co-operation with Cyprus and Greece amid Turkey tensions

Agreement comes after Defence Minister Benny Gantz visited the Cypriot capital of Nicosia

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz  Photo by: Tal Shahar, Yediot Ahronot, Pool Via JINIPIX
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz Photo by: Tal Shahar, Yediot Ahronot, Pool Via JINIPIX

Israeli leaders have agreed to enhance the country’s military cooperation with Cyprus and Greece in a move aimed squarely at Turkey and the tension over Mediterranean Sea gas reserves.

The announcement comes after Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz visited the Cypriot capital of Nicosia, resulting in a trilateral agreement to increase military-to-military ties to “solidify our collaboration”.

The three countries want to protect their offshore gas drilling rights against any Turkish claims, and already work together as partners in the East Med pipeline project, which is intended to bring Israeli gas to Europe.

Greek Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos condemned “Turkey’s illegal, provocative and unilateral actions in Greek and Cypriot maritime zones” as “blatant violations of international law and of good neighbourhood relations”.

Gantz’s visit is the latest in a series – last month Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi met his Greek and Cypriot counterparts, while in June Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

The trio have already agreed to collaborate in areas such as cyber security, agriculture and tourism, and the Israel Defence Forces has worked with the Greek and Cypriot militaries before, taking part in European exercises.

Of most interest to Athens, however, will be the IDF’s new Sa’ar weapon ships, developed to defend gas exploration sites in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Their 100km radar systems, high-trajectory missiles and stealth technology could be game-changing if disputes over sea-beds and access ever escalate. Given that Turkey recently sent gas prospecting ships into waters claimed by Greece, and drilling ships into an area claimed by Cyprus, that is a possibility.

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