Israeli Finance Minister Set for Cyprus Visit in May
During a meeting yesterday with Commerce Minister Neoklis Sylikiotis, Liberman said that relations between the two countries are at their best point ever since the establishment of the state of Israel and the Republic of Cyprus.
This can be seen by the number of visits by Israeli officials to Cyprus and the amount of bilateral trade, he said. Bilateral relations are being promoted in tourism, energy, management of water resources and investment in industry and real estate, said Liberman.
Sylikiotis, who recently took over the commerce ministry, said that simplified procedures are being adopted for investment in Cyprus and measures are being taken to increase the flow of visitors between the two countries. The minister will be travelling to Israel soon for more talks, he said.
There have been five rounds of discussions on ways to cooperate in the field of energy, and during his next visit there may be an agreement announced, according to his comments on Sigma TV last night. Israel, Cyprus and Greece have expressed interest in developing a pipeline leading from the Eastern Mediterranean to supply natural gas to Europe via Greece.
Liberman's visit is the latest in a series of high-profile diplomatic bilateral meetings between Cyprus and Israel. The two countries have rapidly improved relations since the discovery of large reserves of hydrocarbons in the sea between Cyprus and Israel.
In January, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Cyprus following a number of agreements on common defence and exchange of intelligence. The defence agreements follow earlier economic agreements to delineate each nation's maritime border or Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and to cooperate on energy issues such as exploring for offshore gas and oil.
Cyprus-Israeli relations have also improved dramatically since the alliance between Turkey and Israel waned over a row to do with the deaths of nine Turkish activists at the hands of Israeli special forces in 2010. On September 7th, 2011, Eliades met with Israeli Ambassador Michael Harari and discussed strengthening bilateral military cooperation. On the same day, Turkey announced its decision to suspend military and commercial agreements with Israel.
Tensions escalated in the Eastern Mediterranean last year over the issue of offshore gas and oil drilling after US company Noble Energy started exploring for gas reserves in Cyprus' Block 12 at the beginning of October. In response, Turkey boosted its naval presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, claiming that Cyprus' agreement on maritime borders with Israel is null-and-void, and asserting the right to 'freedom of navigation.'
Israel, Greece and Russia took up defensive positions in response to Turkey's aggression over Cyprus' natural resources. These countries made public statements in support of Cyprus' sovereign right to its offshore reserves, and said they will defend this right based on the International Law of the Sea.
Since then, Noble Energy discovered between 5-8 Tcf of natural gas in Block 12 and in further developments, Cyprus and Israel are discussing building an LNG plant on the island plus a pipeline that would supply Europe.
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