Greek Cyprus ratifies military cooperation deal with Israel

July 03, 2012, Tuesday/ 17:43:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

The Greek Cypriot administration ratified a defense and military cooperation agreement with Israel in its parliament on Tuesday, opening the way for military arms trade between Greek Cyprus and Israel.

The agreement between the two administrations was signed in January 2012, during Greek Cypriot Defense minister Dimitris Iliadis’s visit to his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak, in Tel Aviv. The agreement was submitted to the parliament of Greek Cyprus on Monday.

According to Greek Cypriot media outlets, the agreement, titled “Mutual Protection of Confidential Information,” envisages secrecy of bilateral military and defense programs and protection of confidential information exchanged between the two governments. The agreement bars the submission of its principles or actions undertaken in relation to it to any national or international court in the case of a dispute or disagreement between the administrations.

Israel and Greek Cyprus have started to seek closer ties in regards to cooperation in the fields of energy and defense, which may present challenges for Turkey.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a visit to Greek Cyprus in February, the first ever visit by an Israeli prime minister to the island. Israeli President Shimon Peres also had talks with Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias during a key visit to the island in November 2011, discussing gas finds in the eastern Mediterranean, a discovery that has sparked a crisis between Turkey and Greek Cyprus.

Israel, which also conducts drilling off its coast, has strained relations with Turkey as well. Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador and suspended military agreements after a UN panel investigating a deadly May 31, 2010, raid on an international aid flotilla headed for Gaza said in its report that Israel’s blockade of Gaza was legal.

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