Israel denies plans to deploy commandos to Greek Cyprus

Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias (L) and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) address the press, after their meeting at the presidential palace, Nicosia, Cyprus, 16 February 2012. (Photo: EPA)

May 21, 2012, Monday/ 11:04:00

A spokesperson from the Israel Foreign Ministry refuted an Anatolia news agency report which said the Israeli president has requested permission to deploy at least 20,000 soldiers to Greek Cyprus in exchange for building a gas terminal on the island.

“The illusionary claims are baseless and out of touch with reality. Israel does not in the present, nor has it ever, posted its troops on foreign soil. One must question the motives and goals of persons propagating this outrageous lie,” the spokesperson of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

According to Anatolia’s news report, which it said was based on the statements of a Greek Cypriot official, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu visited Greek Cyprus on Feb. 16 and met with Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias. It was the first-ever visit of an Israeli PM to the island seeking closer ties with regard to cooperation in the fields of energy and defense. Netanyahu was reported to have requested permission to establish an air and naval base.

Furthermore, Anatolia stated that Netanyahu said, “Give us an air and a naval base and I will immediately prohibit investment on the Turkish side of the island with a decision in the Knesset.”

Turkish diplomatic sources also denounced the news, telling Today’s Zaman that the news released by the Turkish media outlet is not legal and resource-based. “As a matter of fact, it is contrary to the Zürich Agreement of 1960. The news source has not been named. It is likely just a claim made by Greek Cypriots,” a Turkish diplomatic official said.

The birth of the Cyprus constitution began in 1959 with the Zürich Agreement, followed by the Treaty of Alliance and Guarantee in Zürich, which were signed in 1960 between Turkey, Greece, the United Kingdom and Cypriot community leaders. Accordingly, Cyprus was proclaimed an independent state in 1960. However, following the failure of the agreement in 1963, Cyprus was divided into Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot regions.

Greek Cyprus, which faces a difficult time with its troubled economy, cannot afford to spend $10 billion on building a gas terminal. Israel had offered to build the terminal, but demanded that all 10,000 construction workers employed for the project be Israeli citizens. This means there will be a total of 30,000 Israelis living on the island when the purported plan is put into action. Of that number, 20,000 will be Israeli commandos deployed to the island to protect Israeli citizens and the gas terminal.

Anatolia had also reported that a Greek Cypriot source said Israel is intending to create a “little Israel” on the island, and added, “Israel is not coming here to leave when its job is done, but to stay forever.”

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