Leaders of Israel, Cyprus, Greece meet to strengthen regional cooperation

Seeking to establish a regional alliance, the leaders of Cyprus, Israel and Greece met in Nicosia to formulate a trilateral pact that will enhance the three countries’ interests.   

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News

The leaders of Cyprus, Greece and Israel met in the Cypriot capital on Thursday with the aim of strengthening cooperation and bolstering stability in a region facing many challenges.

Thursday’s talks are the first tripartite summit between Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Discussions covered energy matters, including newly found offshore gas reserves, as well as tourism. The leaders will also sign a cooperation agreement on water resources.

The summit echoes a similar template involving the leaders from Israel, Egypt and Cyprus that is designed to boost cooperation.

“The purpose of the meeting, which reflects the tighter relations between the three countries, is to establish a permanent framework for countries that share similar worldviews, values and interests in order to strengthen stability in the eastern Mediterranean basin and advance regional prosperity,” the Israeli Prime Minister’s office said in a statement. “The potential for tripartite cooperation is considerable.”

A professional steering committee will also convene to discuss concrete projects that will be advanced in the near future.

Cypriot government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides hailed the summit as setting a new standard of regional cooperation, saying that other European Union (EU) and Middle Eastern countries have shown interest in participating in similar meetings.

The three countries are seeking to establish a regional alliance which would serve to counter Turkey’s influence, as well as other countries’ impact on the area. Greece and Cyrpus are historic adversaries of Turkey.

This meeting comes after Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon met with Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos in Athens on Tuesday, as the two signed a joint declaration after they discussed security in the Middle East, the civil war in Syria and defense cooperation.

Greek Prime Minister Tsipras and 10 Greek government ministers traveled to Jerusalem and met with Netanyahu on Wednesday.

“Our cooperation with Greece and Cyprus stands on its own,” Netanyahu said after meeting.

He stressed that the trilateral pact “does not depend on our efforts to normalize our relations with Turkey,” relating to recent reports that the two countries are negotiating the re-establishing of diplomatic relations after a five-year cessation.

“Greece is a true friend. I believe that we are developing a friendship that can turn into a genuine alliance for peace, for progress and for security. And I’m sure that this G2G meeting will further enhance that friendship and cooperation.”

Netanyahu met with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades  in June last year in Jerusalem.

AP contributed to this report.