01/11/2012, 00.00
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Cyprus and Israel sign two defence and intelligence agreements

The crisis in Turkish-Israeli relations and the discovery of hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean are behind improved relations between the two countries. Cyprus has no navy or air force that could act as a deterrent to Turkey.
Nicosia (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Israel and Cyprus have signed two defence agreements on Monday concerning cooperation and the protection and exchange of graded information. Cypriot Minister of Defence Demetris Eliades signed the agreements during the official visit to Israel.

“Signing the two agreements sets the basis for the further development of relations in the area of defence cooperation,” Eliades said yesterday after he returned home.

The minister explained that the aim of the cooperation is peace, security, stability and normalcy in the Eastern Mediterranean “on the basis and always in full compliance with international law.”

“The visit was described by everyone as historic and very important for the development of the two countries’ relations,” he added.

During his visit, Eliades met his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak, Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as the patriarch of Jerusalem and All Palestine, Theophilos III.

The two sides did not disclose the details of the agreements although local sources report that they include close monitoring of the island’s airspace, especially the area where hydrocarbon exploration is underway.

Cyprus has no navy or air force that could act as a deterrent to Turkey, which opposes Nicosia’s decision to explore for natural gas and has issued repeated threats.

Turkey says Cyprus has no authority to explore for hydrocarbons as long as the island's division is not resolved (see “Cyprus discovers gas at sea. Turkey and Egypt step forward," in AsiaNews, 31 December 2011).

Relations between Israel and Cyprus have improved rapidly and significantly since Israeli-Turkish ties soured following the Mavi Marmara incident and the discovery of hydrocarbons in their respective economic zones (see “Turkey imposes sanctions against Israel in the wake of UN report on the Gaza flotilla,” in AsiaNews, 2 September 2011).

Eliades explicitly referred to the discovery of oil and natural gas reserves found in the exclusive economic zones of Cyprus and Israel and how that opened a new chapter in relations between the two countries. US-based Nobles Energy is involved in exploration in both areas.

Eliades referred to Cyprus' sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone, noting that the international community recognises and supports Cyprus' rights.

Turkey says Cyprus has no authority to explore for hydrocarbons as long as the island's division is not resolved. The northern part of the island is under Turkish occupation.

Ankara had sent its own research vessels with a military escort to the region, saying it will carry out exploration of its own off the island’s southern coast unless Cyprus backs down.
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