Cyprus Mail
Guest ColumnistOpinion

How balanced is Cyprus-Israel strategic cooperation?

Military personnel carry debris on a slope where a missile struck, in Tashkent (also known as Vouno), in northern Cyprus, July 1, 2019. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

By Prometheus

Earlier this month media attention focused on the explosion in the Turkish occupied part of Cyprus. Controversial statements appeared in the press in an effort to explain the incident. Unfortunately, it seems that no account of the events offered sorted out the causes of the incident. Almost everyone seemed to be unworried by the allegations that the incident was accidental and the probability of its recurrence extremely low. However, no one was able to give convincing assurances that a similar occurrence will not be repeated. Fortunately, this time the explosion on the Pentadaktylos mountain range caused no casualties. Alas, this was the case only here, in Cyprus.

Navel gazers and insular islanders as we, Cypriots tend to forget that our neighbouring civilians – citizens of Syria – including a baby were killed. Many cynically noticed that the Syrian authorities needed to be more careful when using their anti-aircraft missile systems. Apparently, the crew of the Syrian Air Defence systems defended their own people from the missile attacks of the Israeli Air Force. Had they not reacted, there would probably be more civilian casualties. Shouldn’t those who use lethal weapons inadvertently causing collateral damage of unnecessary human suffering, be more humane and considerate? With the Israeli authorities offering no comment, the international community equally ignored this tragic event.

It is noteworthy that the air raid of the Israeli Air Force was carried out using Nicosia’s FIR. It is rather odd in this respect that the Israeli Air Force should use Cyprus airspace to launch an attack on the soil of a third friendly country and not the national airspace of Israel. Currently, the Cypriot government considers Israel a friendly country, the main regional partner and protector of Cyprus interests. It is true that a protracted honeymoon in Cyprus-Israeli bilateral relations set off in the early 2010s. Already in December 2010, we struck a deal with Israel delineating the demarcation line of our corresponding Exclusive Economic Zones. Since then, the relationship deepened to include common military/naval exercises as well as search and rescue operations in the sea: we have witnessed Israeli commandos exercising on the Troodos mountains, Israeli Air Force fighter jets touching Paphos Airbase while Cypriot intelligence is being passed on (is the flow of information going only one way, though?) to Tel Aviv.

But let us stop for a moment to ponder: in the worst-case scenario of a further Turkish advance will the potent Israeli Defence Forces really come to our rescue? How balanced is the touted Cyprus-Israel strategic cooperation?

Humblest of opinions it may be: this much celebrated ‘strategic alliance’ with Israel, however expedient, at the current juncture has to become more balanced to avoid unpleasant consequences which may potentially damage Cyprus’ friendly relations with other immediate neighbours to our east.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Al-Mekdad declared his country’s readiness to change its response to Israeli aggression. In other words, it looks like the era of Syrian restraint in the face of Israeli Air Force raids on Syrian territory is coming to an end. In the light of the new Syrian assertiveness, no one can guarantee that in the course of repelling the next attacks of the Israeli Air Force another load of lethal ammunition will not land on our island. Nobody, in his right mind, wants a chance to become a regularity.

Like any other unilateral actions, such Israeli air raids carry the danger of regional destabilisation. In such conditions, the national security interests of none of the Eastern Mediterranean states can be reliably ensured. We are in dire need of a truly comprehensive and multilateral approach to be adopted by all parties to achieve stability and security in our turbulent region.

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