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Cyprus-Israel ties blossom

Cyprus and Israel have agreed to form an “implementation committee” to handle all aspects of bilateral relations and in particular energy and security issues, an insider told the Cyprus Weekly.

The objective is to speed up the signing of an unitisation agreement, a crucial document that safeguards both countries’ rights to gas fields running on both sides of the line separating their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).

The intergovernmental committee will also try to boost maritime security, a term that incorporates the security of floating platforms operating in the Levantine basin.

At the same time, Cyprus and Israel will set up joint systems guaranteeing cyber defence, namely keeping cyber threats by international hackers at bay. Israel is a world leader on systems security.

Gas exploitation essential

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Cyprus at the end of July, followed by Cyprus Defence Minister Christoforos Fokaides’, visit to Israel on August 3 made clear that the signing of a unitisation agreement as soon as possible is vital for the exploitation of the Aphrodite gas field. This is more important to Cyprus, as a very small part of Aphrodite runs into Israel’s EEZ.

Energy experts point out that without a unitisation agreement it would be very difficult for Levantine partners, Noble Energy and Delek, to fully exploit Aphrodite. The American and Israeli consortium has large gas interests in both countries. The singing of the agreement should be a first priority for the “implementation committee” that Cyprus and Israel are determined to set up very soon.

The Turkish factor

Informed sources told the Cyprus Weekly that the Israeli government has expressed concern about Turkey’s potential rights and role on the island in case of a solution of the Cyprus problem.

Relations between Turkey and Israel remain frozen after the Mavi Marmara tragedy some years back. And although Israel is willing to make amends and has issued an apology for the commando attack against the Turkish vessel, President Tayyip Erdogan doesn’t seem willing to make amends.

As a result, Israel has reportedly expressed concerns that Turkey, after a solution of the Cyprus problem, will potentially try to undermine any prior bilateral agreement between Nicosia and Tel Aviv, especially in the key areas of energy and security.

Nicosia argues that a solution of the political problem would enhance regional cooperation instead of damaging it.

Maritime security

Cyprus has discussed with Israel the prospect of it participating together with Egypt in a conference on maritime security, which will be held in Cyprus on November 12, under the auspices of the European Defence Agency.

The government will issue invitations to both countries and expects positive replies.

Energy security will be on the agenda, an issue of great interest both for the EU and countries of the Eastern Mediterranean. We understand that maritime security and in particular the security of floating gas platforms are issues prominent in Cyprus-Israel bilateral talks.

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