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Our View: Entertaining ideas of a defence pact with Israel is wishful thinking.

EVERY time a top Israeli official is to visit Cyprus, the newspapers are full of reports about the signing of defence alliances and development of strategic co-operations. In fact before the visit by Benjamin Netanyahu last February -- the first ever visit by an Israeli prime minister -- there were reports in the press that Cyprus would offer Israel the use of its air base Paphos and part of a new strategic relationship.

The issue was never discussed if the prime minister's and President Christofias' subsequent comments were anything to go by. "I came here to develop our bilateral ties, our economic ties and our ties in the field of energy," Netanyahu said, when asked he was asked the purpose of his visit. The Cyprus government spokesman also denied the air-base story.

On Tuesday, the day Israel's foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman was to arrive in Cyprus, a paper reported that one of the issues he would be discussing would be the creation of a five-country 'axis against Turkey' to counter Ankara's designs on the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean. The axis, apart from Cyprus and Israel, would also include Greece, Bulgaria and Romania.

Predictably, there was no mention of this 'regional alliance' to counter Turkey either by Lieberman or his Cypriot counterpart Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis. Discussions focused on a gas sharing agreement to exploit reserves that fell in the maritime boundary between the two countries. But even with regard to gas, the idea of setting up a joint liquefaction plant in Cyprus appears to have been dropped for the time being, Israel, presumably exploring other options.

The two foreign ministers also discussed bi-lateral co-operation in dealing with natural disasters as well as extending a search and rescue agreement. In addition to this, Lieberman discussed co-operation on issues of water management and energy with the interior minister. Next month, Israel's finance minister will visit with a view to negotiating a double taxation treaty and exploring investment prospects in industry and real estate.

Stronger ties are being forged and as Lieberman pointed out, Cyprus-Israel relations were at their best stage ever. It is true that there has never been such a level of bi-lateral co-operation in the past and this is a positive development. But entertaining ideas of a defence agreement or a strategic alliance is nothing more than wishful thinking on the Cyprus side. Strengthening relations through co-operation on issues of mutual concern should be adequate for both countries at present.

Copyright Cyprus Mail 2012

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Geographic Code:4EXCY
Date:Apr 20, 2012
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