The Cypriot general’s visit reflects warm relations between the two countries, which share growing economic and strategic interests.
By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
The head of the National Guard of the Republic of Cyprus, Lt. Gen. Ilias A. Leontaris, came to Israel Wednesday for an official visit as the guest of IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot.
According to a statement put out by the IDF Spokesperson Unit, the two were slated to discuss “common challenges and future military collaborations.”
Cyprus and Israel have grown closer as Turkey’s relationship with the Jewish state has gotten frostier, with President Recep Erdoğan regularly blasting Israel and openly supporting the Hamas terrorist group in the Gaza Strip. The Cypriots’ troubles with Turkey began when that country invaded Cyprus in 1974 and effectively partitioned the country, establishing a Turkish-Cypriot government in the northern part that only it recognizes.
Israel and Cyprus have held several military drills during the past year alone. In March, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) tested Cypriot air defense over a three-day period, while in June, over 500 elite Israeli commandos as well as attack helicopters and fighter jets held a three-day-long intensive drill on the island. A similar exercise testing the readiness of ground and air forces for emergencies took place there most recently in December.
Meanwhile, in November, the Israeli, Cypriot and Greek defense ministers met in Athens to discuss strengthening cooperation to promote security and stability in the region in the first such trilateral defense summit between the three countries.
The three are also solidifying their economic cooperation. Work on the EuroAsia Interconnector, a 1500 km-long subsea cable that will connect the electric grids of Israel, Cyprus and Greece (via Crete) is expected to begin this year and finish in 2022.
In addition, the three countries signed a joint declaration in Tel Aviv in April 2017 to promote construction of a natural gas pipeline that will enable the export of Israel’s recently discovered vast gas deposits to Cyprus and Greece. This would give Israel direct access to the European market, which is currently heavily dependent on Russia and has suffered disruptions in supply in the past when political tensions arose between Moscow and its Western neighbors.