NICOSIA / ANKARA (Hurriyet Daily News)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited CyprusThursday to discuss energy cooperation, right after Cypriots launched a second licensing round for offshore exploratory drilling that received Turkey’s condemnation.
Netanyahu’s visit is the first by an Israeli prime minister to the eastern Mediterranean island. The blossoming of relations between Israel and Cyprus is prompted by a mutual interest in gas and oil exploration and comes as their respective ties with Turkey deteriorate.
Netanyahu’s office said the one-day visit “was designed to strengthen the improving ties between the two nations.” The two sides will discuss cooperation in energy matters, agriculture, health and maritime research and sign a disaster relief and a search and rescue agreement, the office said.
“It’s a natural relationship for us,” Netanyahu said at the start of his meeting with Cypriot President Demetris Christofias. Greek Cypriot government Spokesman Stefanos Stefanou told the Associated Press beforehand the visit “illustrates the great dynamic driving forward the improvement in relations between the two countries.”
After receiving Netanyahu, Christofias and the Israeli prime minister held a tête-à-tête meeting.
The two leaders were due to sign an agreement on assistance in the event of natural disasters and regarding search-and-rescue cooperation by air and naval forces. Cypriot newspapers said Netanyahu would have requests from Christofias such as Cypriot permission to use the “Andreas Papandreou” airbase in Paphos, the transfer of natural gas to Cyprus through a pipeline, contribution to an energy terminal that would be built in Cyprus, protection of those pipelines and facilities and acceptance of responsibility for the search and rescue in the region.