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Trilateral summit eyes boosting rescue ops

File photo: A previous trilateral

CYPRUS, Israel and Greece on Thursday signed a memorandum of cooperation in the fields of research and technology in the context of a trilateral summit taking place in Jerusalem, with the three nations pledging to further strengthen their relations.

The meeting in Jerusalem comes less than a year after a ‘strategic alliance’ was announced in Nicosia.

President Nicos Anastasiades, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras also issued a joint declaration, the Jerusalem Declaration, pledging to work together in tackling natural disasters and emergencies in the region.

Afterwards, Netanyahu hosted a working lunch.

During the talks, Netanyahu floated the idea of establishing a multinational force with a joint command centre coordinating responses to fires, earthquakes, floods and dealing with search and rescue efforts.

The proposal was welcomed by the Cypriot and Greek leaders.

In joint statements after the signing of the memorandum, Anastasiades stressed the three countries’ close cooperation in firefighting efforts.

Both Greece and Cyprus sent firefighting planes to Israel last month when the country was ravaged by fires, and Israel despatched firefighting planes to Cyprus in the summer when it faced a major fire of its own in the Solea region.

Addressing Netanyahu as “my friend Bibi,” Anastasiades said the purpose of the talks in Jerusalem was to lay the foundations for enhancing cooperation in energy, tourism, health, research and development, and, water management, migration, and combatting terrorism.

During the bilateral talks that preceded the trilateral meeting, he said, the three leaders re-emphasised the “strategic importance” of common projects, such as the Euro-Asia Interconnector subsea electricity cable and the EastMed pipeline.

Both these projects – which are still at the planning stage – are particularly important to Europe’s energy security and diversity, Anastasiades said.

In his own two-way talks with Netanyahu, the president said he underlined Cyprus’ commitment to help boost EU-Israel ties.

For his part, Netanyahu spoke of the excellent relations among the three Mediterranean countries, thanking Cyprus and Greece for their assistance in battling the recent fires in Israel.

Netanyahu said also that the next tripartite conference would take place in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Tsipras stressed the potential for energy collaboration, noting that Greece aims to become a transit point for Cypriot and Israeli natural gas.

In Israel, Anastasiades was accompanied by foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides, agriculture minister Nicos Kouyialis, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides and other officials. The president and the Cypriot delegation return to Cyprus on Friday morning.

Israel, Greece and Cyprus set up a trilateral committee to explore the possibility of laying a gas pipeline from Israel to Cyprus, and then to Greece for export further on in Europe.

Israeli energy minister Yuval Steinitz said following a meeting with his Greek and Cypriot counterparts in September that the subsea gas pipeline was “one of the most promising projects” under examination.

In January, the three leaders had stressed in their joint declaration that their new strategic axis was not exclusive, and – in a nod to Egypt and Turkey – stated that they would gladly welcome other states with similar goals into this alliance.

The trilateral summit in Jerusalem was the first meeting between the leaders of the three countries since Israel and Turkey reached a reconciliation agreement over the summer.
Anastasiades flew to Israel on short notice in July, soon after the agreement with Turkey was announced a few weeks earlier. Both Nicosia and Tel Aviv downplayed any downgrade in their relationship as a result of Israel’s upgrade in ties with Turkey.

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