THERE is no doubt that relations between Israel and Cyprus have been strengthened in the three years of the Anastasiades presidency. Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Anastasiades have direct communication, which had not existed in the past between the two governments, they seem to have a good rapport and have tried to expand the areas of co-operation.
Last week there had been 80 flights between the two countries, said the president, which was a sign that co-operation was not just between governments. Anastasiades, who met Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Sunday evening, thanked Israel for “the valuable help you gave us during the terrible forest fires in Cyprus recently,” while Netanyahu reminded that in 2010, when his country faced a similar problem, Cyprus provided help as soon as he asked for it. In times of crisis friends helped each other, but “they co-operate in good times in order to improve things,” said the Israeli PM.
The much-trumpeted trilateral meetings of Cyprus, Israel and Greece – another one is scheduled by the end of the year – might not have produced anything more tangible than declarations of intent but the positive signals they transmitted helped the strengthening of relations at least between Cyprus and Israel. On the issue of energy, on which Nicosia has been trying very hard to reach some co-operation agreement, the Israeli government has been non-committal. This was evident in the joint statement issued after Sunday’s meeting in Jerusalem.
It said: “In the context of the exploration and development of energy resource in the eastern Mediterranean, both leaders concluded that there is no question that resolving the outstanding issues between Cyprus and Turkey would greatly facilitate the pace of the development of future projects, which will proceed according to international law, as well as greatly enhance stability in the region. Therefore, Israel has a strong interest in the resolution of this issue.”
In short, Israel is keen on a Cyprus settlement because this would “greatly facilitate the pace of the development of future projects.” Although this stand could not have been welcomed by the anti-settlement camp in Cyprus, which had often spoken about an energy alliance with Israel, it is perfectly understandable. The Israeli government has all but agreed to supply Turkey with natural gas from its Leviathan field and would prefer to do this after a settlement, presumably so that the gas pipeline could pass through Cyprus’ EEZ with the Cyprus government’s consent. As for the reference to international law, it could be read in different ways, one of which is that international law could not prevent a pipeline going through the Cyprus EEZ, if the government objected to it.
Good relations between neighbouring countries are important, but the interests of a country’s economy are more important. This was the message from Sunday’s meeting in Jerusalem and it is impossible to argue with it.