Friday, December 9, 2016

Israel, Cyprus and Greece ties forge ahead with trilateral rescue unit - Herb Keinon

by Herb Keinon

Israel PM Netanyahu, Greek PM ALexis Tsipras and Cyprus President Anastasiades agreed on the new force on a trilateral summit held on Thursday.

Israeli PM Netanyahu, Greek PM Tsipras and Cyprus President Anastasiades in a trilateral summit
Israeli PM Netanyahu, Greek PM Tsipras and Cyprus President Anastasiades in a trilateral summit. (photo credit:KOBY GIDEON/GPO) 

Israel, Greece and Cyprus have agreed to the formation of a joint emergency and rescue force that will deal with disasters such as fires, floods and earthquakes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday at a trilateral meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades.

After meeting separately with each of the leaders, Israeli PM Netanyahu said that the assistance Cyprus and Greece extended to Israel last month in putting out the fires across the country was both “invaluable” and “deeply appreciated.”

This is a “concrete example of how this cooperation can save lives,” he noted, adding that other countries were invited to join the emergency force that will be set up.

Thursday's trilateral meeting was the second in less than 12 months, and a sign of the strategic relationship that has developed between the three countries. The last meeting was held in January in Nicosia, and the next will be held in Salonika.

Netanyahu lauded the relationship as one of “genuine friendship and sympathy of our three peoples to each other.”

Up until the early 2000's Greece and Cyprus were among the most critical countries toward Israel in Europe. This changed, however, in the middle of the last decade with Israel's discovery of natural gas in the Mediterranean, and because of a sharp deterioration in Israeli-Turkish ties.

Tsipras said that cooperation between the two countries “is a strategic choice” for Greece and a “lever of growth.” He said that he was both “happy and proud” of the role Greek firefighting pilots played in putting out the fires that ravaged the country last month.

Tsipras added that he held meaningful and sincere discussions with Netanyahu about strengthening ties, and global developments, saying: “We were honest in expressing our disagreement.” The relationship, he said, was based on honesty. 

Regarding energy issues, which always play a dominant role in discussions between the three countries, he said that Greece aims to “be an energy transit center for Israeli and Cypriot natural gas to Europe.”

According to Tsipras, teams from the countries will discuss the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline, with emphasis on the strategic importance of the recent purchase of two gas fields from Israel by Greek companies.

One Israeli source said this purchase was important for Greece in that it gave them a practical stake and concrete involvement in the natural gas finds in the region.

Tsipras referred to talks underway to find a solution to the northern Cyprus issue, saying that given the other crisis in the region, it is “more imperative than ever” to find a “liveable and just solution.” He supported Anastasiades in his efforts. He also said that it was also “imperative” to resume Israeli-Palestinian talks that will lead to a two state solution.

Anastasiades thanked Israel for its support in the current diplomatic efforts to solve the northern Cyprus issue, and also referred to the importance of creating a climate to allow the resumption of negotiations that would “recognize the security of Israel” and at the same time “lead to the creation of a Palestinian state.”

Herb Keinon


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