Netanyahu visits Cyprus to discuss gas drilling

Article Summary
Israel's Prime Minister makes first-ever visit to neighboring island to explore the scope for regional cooperation.

The Prime Minister and Mrs. Netanyahu will leave Israel today for a one-day visit of Cyprus, making it the first visit ever of an Israeli premier to the neighboring island.

To bolster the relationships between the two countries, the Prime Minister will meet with the Cypriot President, Dimitris Christofias, the chairman of the opposition, Nikos Anastassiades, and several other government ministers.

Natural gas cooperation and additional means to enhance energy security of both states will be among the topics addressed. Netanyahu and senior Cypriot officials will discuss the possibility of laying a natural gas pipeline between the two countries and promoting agreements to produce gas from joint Israeli-Cypriot gas fields. The parties will also discuss connecting their electric grids with an underwater cable, and establishing a joint fuel depot. The objective of these endeavors is to improve the mutual supply of energy.

The discussion will include the promotion of tourism and trade, as well as cooperation in agriculture, health and Mediterranean studies. Additionally, the parties will sign an air and sea rescue and assistance agreement in the event of natural disasters.

In the past year, Israel has fostered much closer relations with Cyprus in a bid to set up a regional alliance consisting of Israel, Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria and other Balkan countries.

Israeli ministers have said that in view of the Arab Spring and the consolidation of Islamic forces, Jerusalem must seek new allies in the region. The Cypriots are looking for an Israeli umbrella that will allow them to search for gas without Ankara standing in the way. 

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