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16 April 2014, Wednesday
 
 
Today's Zaman
 
 
 
 

Netanyahu pays historic visit to Greek Cyprus as regional balances shift

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GREEK CYPRIOT LEADER DEMETRIS CHRISTOFIAS (L) SHAKES HANDS WITH ISRAEL'S PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU (R) IN NICOSIA, 16 FEBRUARY 2012. (PHOTO: EPA)
16 February 2012, Thursday /AP WITH TODAYSZAMAN.COM
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a historic visit to Greek Cyprus on Thursday, declaring the two countries' warming ties a "natural relationship" in a reflection of the rapidly shifting alliances in this turbulent part of the world.

The visit - the first ever by an Israeli leader to the nearby island nation - was also a testimony to warming ties that have emerged from political and economic turmoil, as well as new economic prospects. It followed a succession of reciprocal visits by senior officials from both countries and several low-level agreements.

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, it said.

"It's a natural relationship for us," Netanyahu said at the start of his meeting with Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias.

Cyprus government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou told The Associated Press beforehand that the visit "illustrates the great dynamic driving forward the improvement in relations between the two countries."

Although Cyprus is only a 50-minute flight away from Tel Aviv, ties between Israel and Greek Cyprus have long been chilly.

Greek Cypriots backed the Palestinians in their quest for an independent state and looked on warily as Israel built military and trade relations with regional powerhouse Turkey, which doesn't recognize Greek Cyprus as a sovereign state.

But Israel's relations with Turkey have deteriorated dramatically, while Greek Cyprus has been looking to cement ties with neighbors as a bulwark against Ankara's growing regional influence. Also, Greek Cyprus can't rely as before on top ally, Greece, which is grappling with crushing financial problems.

Another potential bridge between Israel and Greek Cyprus is the discovery of huge offshore natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea. The same US company, Noble Energy, is leading the exploration efforts in both countries.

Turkey, however, has threatened the finds. It opposes any Greek Cypriot oil and gas search that denies Turkish Cypriots in the north of the divided island what it contends is a rightful claim to gas wealth. And it has dismissed a Greek Cypriot-Israeli deal demarcating their maritime borders as null and void.

Last year, Ankara dispatched a warship-escorted research vessel to look for fuel in waters off Cyprus' southern coast, provoking Christofias to demand the Turks abandon their "gunboat diplomacy."

Cyprus was split into an internationally recognized Greek-speaking south and a Turkish-speaking north in 1974 when Turkey sent troops following a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Until recently, Turkey was Israel's strongest ally in the Muslim world but those ties frayed badly over Palestinian casualties during Israel's 2009 war in the Gaza Strip. Relations took another blow after Israeli commandoes killed nine Turks aboard a Turkish-led flotilla that tried to breach Israel's naval blockade of Gaza in May 2010.

The rupture with Turkey and the toppling of Egypt's longtime leader Hosni Mubarak made Israel more vulnerable in a region already hostile to the Jewish state and forced it to look for other alliances.

"There is no doubt that the loss of Turkey pushed Israel in the direction of Greece and Cyprus," said Alon Liel, a former director of Israel's foreign ministry and one-time envoy to Turkey. "With Cyprus it has become more significant because of the gas."

Energy security is a strategic concern for any country, but Israel has other interests in courting Greek Cyprus, said Tim Potier, political analyst and law professor at the University of Nicosia.

"Israel is looking to strengthen bonds with a fast-dwindling list of friendly neighbors as one-time regional friends and allies have turned into potential rivals amid the tumult of the Arab Spring," Potier said. "Cyprus' EU membership, proximity and own gas wealth potential make the island a natural ally for an increasingly isolated Israel."

Stefanou said Greek Cypriot-Israeli energy cooperation is a key aspect to budding relations, but that there are others, including defense. He said the EU member island's strong links to Arab countries could "act to promote dialogue" with Israel.

But Liel also said the growing Israel-Greek Cyprus alliance could hurt Israel by driving Turkey even further into the camp of Hamas militants who rule Gaza.

"They (the Turks) see Israel aiding Cyprus and in return, they will want to aid Hamas," he said. "The Turks feel that if Israel is going toward Cyprus they will try to strengthen Hamas" by donating money to its government.

 
 
COMMENTS
Pakistani foreign minister who visited Turkey a while ago should also go and visit Turkish North Cyprus and assure its government of Pakistan's full support and recognition. This will make Pakistan government more popular with the people of Pakistan and build unity among among Muslim people.
muradali shaikh
It should be noted that Cyprus poses no threat to Turkey, does not attack Turkey with rockets, suicide bombers, etc. Turkey, under the current government, sees Hamas as an Islamic partner in a war on foreign invaders in the region (ie. the Jews).
rich
Once again FM Davutoglu's foreign policy is a failure, this time with respect to Israel. Davutoglu couldn't pick a winner in a one horse race, he's totally incompetent.
Christoph
I hope Israel asked for Turkey’s permission (< the superpower) before visiting the RoC just in case Turkey gets angry and sends another group of Turks to their death in a dingy! :)
GR!
@TutchTurk, what do you think...can you handle to defend your statement regarding Cyprus before a Dutch TV crew since we located you? I don't think so. Ultra nationalists like you never live in their homeland and always have a big mouth but never face to face, coward.
Johan
@omer: are you blind? Under France mandate Iskenderun chose for Turkey.
zynell
99% of the world recognize cypress as "south cypress". Israel found oil in Israeli economical waters. there was gas also found in cypress economical waters. Bibi contacted the world known cypress leader for partnership. i do NOT see the legal or moral Turkish case in this story. what does the Turks ...
musa
Dutch Turk- I suggest you learn some history. Turkey annexed parts of Syria by force (Alexandreta), occupies Northern Cyprus, rules millions of Kurds and totally ethnically cleansed itself from Non-muslims in the last 100 years. Remember 1955 Istanbul pogrom.
Omer
Greece was also good friend of Syria and Israel - look what happened. Same will happend to South Cypress. After downgrading South Cypress banks and economy even Israel will understand its failure.
zynell
I believe Natanyahu is loosing touch with reality, he doesn't come to understand that Turkey is a regional Superpower and that Israel is NO more the dominent power in the area.
Raffi
Body language talks and the eyes speak volumes as they are the window of the soul! The picure in Zaman today shows Netanyahu and Christofias avoiding eye contact. They do not really see eye to eye. But relations between countries are not based on personalities as much as interests. Greek Cyprus and ...
alper ali riza qc
@DutchTurk - get your facts correct, 1) the Greeks attempted a Coup over the Republic of Cyprus not the Greek Cypriots over the Turkish Cypriots 2) there were no mass slaughters from the Greek Cypriot side, there were a number of notable incidents by a disgusting few but that is it, the Turkish Cypr...
Mark
It's interesting that the Greek Cypriots aren't clever enough to see that they are being used as political pawns by the terrorist state of Israel -- interesting they don't realize the decades of being ignored by the insincere, fascist state of Israel has been for a reason -- interesting that the int...
Cherokee
@frank, What a disturbed mind you have...WE ARE ALL MUSLIMS, LEARN TO LIVE WITH IT OR ELSE, GO LIVE ON MARS!
LEVENT
what do you expect ? Turkey lurches towards leading the Arab world and supporting Islamic causes, good or bad, and Israel moves towards Europe and the Eu, which Turkey has antagonized in its shift. Both Turkey and Israel are losers from this, but this whole situation has been caused by Turkey and E...
frank
'NO BIG DEAL'....ITS ONLY A STATE VISIT. AT THE END OF THE DAY, THEY BOTH GO TO BED AND CURL UP LIKE A LITTLE FAT SNAIL AND WAKE UP IN THE MORNING AND TURKEY IS STILL IN THERE BACK YARD, SO NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT. TURKEY IS A GREAT NATION AND NEITHER THE JEWS OR THE GREEKS WILL DERAIL TURKEYS GREAT...
LEVENT
If the Greeks can be friends with them , So there is hope for ending hostilities with the North. This is what can be found in history books: Dion Cassius gives more details, writing that the leader of the Jews in Cyprus was one Artemion. He also gives the shocking information that in Cyprus the Jew...
Z N
HOW WILL THESE TWO MEN SHARE COMMEN INTEREST, WHEN ONE ACCUSES TURKEY FOR OCCUPYING TURKISH CYPRUS AND THE OTHER THAT OCCUPYS AN AREA THE SIZE OF CYPRUS! SO IN REALITY THE GREEK CYPRIOTS ARE SUPPORTING A OCCUPYING NATION. DOUBLE STANDARDS AT ITS BEST. LONG LIVE TURKIYE.
LEVENT
As the announcement of licensing was made in the EU gazette, the EU, the USA, Russia and China backs Greek Cyprus. Russia and China even interest in participating.
Johan
@migo, You are ridiculous, you compare building settlements in the West Banks with saving of the Turkish Cypriots from being slaughtered by the Greek Cypriots. You have no credibility, from now on all you say is just bla bla bla. IF the Greek Cypriots wouldn't had tried a coup and atrocities against...
DutchTurk
@ Omer the usual Turkey double standards, they also complain all the time about the Israeli occupation nof West Bank (which was the result of a war forced on Israel by the way!), but they find it quite normal to occupy Cyprus and hold it occupied! We in Europe watch the Turkish government and its a...
migo
Israel avoided creating closer ties with Greek Cyprus for many years, in order to avoid harming relationship with Turey. But after such a hostile attitude from Turkey towards Israel in recent years, including sending the Mavi Marmara to assist Hamas and later cutting all ties with Israel- Turkey can...
Omer
what is going on with these bullies called PM and FM ?
musa
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