Cyprus–Israel relations

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Cyprus–Israel relations
Map indicating locations of Cyprus  and Israel

Cyprus

Israel

Cyprus–Israel relations refer to the bilateral relations between Cyprus and Israel. Israel is represented in Cyprus through its embassy in Nicosia, Cyprus. Cyprus is represented in Israel through its embassy in Tel-Aviv, Israel. Both countries are members of the Union for the Mediterranean, United Nations, Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.

The warm relations between Israel and Cyprus are based on mutual respect for Western values, the support for free-market economy and the establishment of democracies in the Middle East that would co-exist peacefully. The strong alliance of Cyprus and Israel includes warm collaboration on military, cultural and political matters.[1] The prospect of a joint exploitation of oil and gas fields off Cyprus, as well as now the world's longest subsea electric power cable[2][3] have also brought the two countries closer together.

History[edit]

Deportation camps at Cyprus for Jews of Europe

During and immediately after World War II, Cyprus became a transit point for Jewish Holocaust survivors trying to reach Mandate Palestine. Cyprus was then a British Crown Colony. During 1946-49, an estimated 53,000 Jews were detained by the British in camps on Cyprus.[4]

Bilateral relations[edit]

In the 1980s and 1990s, Cyprus expressed concern over Israel's then close defense relationship with Turkey. Cyprus outwardly backed the Palestinians in the Arab-Israeli conflict and officially recognizes Palestine as a de facto state. Cypriot first lady Androulla Vassiliou, wife of President George Vasiliou, was declared persona non grata in Israel when a delegation she was leading attempted to meet with Yasser Arafat, who was then under house arrest.[5]

In the early 2000s, members of the Cypriot branch of the Greek Orthodox Church were accused of selling church-owned land in the West Bank to Israeli developers.

Relations began to improve in 1993. A number of bilateral agreements were signed and many official visits have taken place including the official State visit by the President of Israel and a reciprocate visit by the President of Cyprus.

In 2010, an EEZ was set within the territorial waters between Israel and Cyprus at the maritime half way point, a clarification essential for safeguarding Israel's rights to oil and underwater gas reservoirs. The agreement was signed in Nicosia by Israeli Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau and the Cypriot Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou. The two countries agreed to cooperate in the development of any cross border resources discovered, and to negotiate an agreement on dividing joint resources.[6]

In February 2012, Netanyahu visited Cyprus, the first visit of an Israeli Prime Minister in history, and the two countries signed a search and rescue agreement.[7][8] Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman visited Cyprus at the invitation of his Cypriot counterpart when Netanyahu was in Washington, and Lieberman has met with Cyprus foreign minister Kyprianou several times.

Energy and natural gas[edit]

Exclusive economic zone between Israel and Cyprus as signed in Nicosia

Israeli energy firm Delek Group is seeking to work with Cyprus on natural gas exploration and extraction near the Leviathan gas field off the Israeli coast where Delek is already active.[9] The large oil and gas field, and the opportunities of joint exploitation, have brought the two countries closer together. This however has opened a new source of frictions between both countries and Turkey. Noble Energy, a US company, is also involved in the Leviathan field and this may lead to US government involvement in the gas fields dispute.

Turkey claimed that the Greek-Cypriot government in the southern part of the island did not have the authority to sign deals with Israel which could be detrimental to the Turkish-Cypriot population in Northern Cyprus. The discovery of oil fields in the Mediterranean allowed Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to continue his diplomatic confrontation on two fronts: one with Israel, and one with Cyprus.[10][11][12]

Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias visited Israel in March 2011 for the first-ever official visit by a Cypriot head of state.[13] Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Antonis Paschalides noted however that, despite all the enthusiasm, Cyprus could not ignore Israeli tourism and real estate projects in the island's north, which was under disputed Turkish control.[14]

According to Turkish media reports in September 2011, Israel Air Force fighter planes flew through the airspace of both Cyprus and Northern Cyprus after taking off to face a Turkish seismic research ship in the Eastern Mediterranean. The reports added that Turkey responded by launching two fighters to track the Israeli planes, at which point the Israeli fighter jets returned to Israeli airspace. The Turkish research vessel was seen as a Turkish provocation in the dispute over gas fields. The operation of Israeli planes in Cyprus airspace was interpreted as a further sign of close Israel-Cyprus ties.[15]

ΔΕΗ-Quantum Energy, a Cyprus-based group including Greece's state-controlled power utility Public Power Corporation of Greece (PPC, also known as DEH) is planning to lay the world's longest subsea power cable, linking Israel, Cyprus and Greece. The link, called the EuroAsia Interconnector project, would be the longest in the world.[16] The cable is supposed to pass from Israel via Cyprus and Crete, and from there to mainland Europe notably Italy and Switzerland and from Bulgaria to Serbia.[17][18]

During his visit in Israel in April 2013 Foreign Minister of Cyprus has expressed his enthusiasm that as Cyprus has financial and economic problems, the energy cooperation agreement between Cyprus and Israel is a bright spot in that will boost hopes for a quick recovery by 2014.[19]

Cypriot mediation between Israel and Lebanon since 2010[edit]

Since the establishment of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Cyprus, Israel and Lebanon, Cyprus has been offering mediation between Lebanon and Israel over their maritime border dispute which was delaying gas and oil exploration of the two countries. General Director of the Department of Energy in Cyprus Solonas Kasinis announced in 2010 from Limassol that Cyprus does anything possible to strengthen cooperation between the three countries not only on the issue of the division of gas and oil reserves but also on military and strategic matters.[20] In an effort to further settle the unstable situation between Israel and Lebanon, Chair President of Cypriot Parliament Yiannakis Omirou visited Lebanese President Michel Suleiman in Beirut to find solution to the disputes.[21]

Tripartite energy memorandum[edit]

On August 8th 2013, Greece, Israel and Cyprus signed the tripartite energy memorandum of understanding after the completion of one year negotiation in Nicosia. Negotiations were held between the Energy and Water Resources Minister of Israel Silvan Shalom, the Cypriot minister of agriculture, natural resources and environment Nicos Kouyialis and the Cypriot minister of environment, energy and climate change George Lakkotrypis.[22] The 2,000-mega-watt EuroAsia Interconnector is planned to lift Cyprus and Israel out of energy isolation through cheaper electricity as supported by George Lakkotrypis. Silvan Shalom announced that the agreement is "historic" and that it demonstrated the powerful relations between the three countries adding that electricity will be exported to the European energy market via cable.[23][24][25] The Greek Prime Minister at the time Antonis Samaras proclaimed on 8 August that Israel has a special role to play in supplying Europe with energy resources and supported that it can become a key energy hub.[26]

Civil marriage[edit]

Israeli matrimonial law is still based on the Millet system employed in the Ottoman Empire, which was not modified during the British Mandate and remains in force. Marriages in each religious community are under the jurisdiction of its own religious authority.[27] Israeli couples who for any reason are unable or unwilling to contract a religious marriage often opt to get married in neighboring Cyprus, given that civil, interfaith and same-sex marriages entered into abroad are recognised by the Israeli state. Republic of Cyprus is ranked as the first or second destination for Israeli civil wedding, alongside Prague.[28][29]

State visits to Cyprus[edit]

Israel and Cyprus agreed on the middle of February 2011 to launch a joint natural gas and oil exploration venture in their adjoining territorial waters. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cypriot President Demetris Christofias inked the deal during Netanyahu's visit to Nicosia, which was the first by an Israeli leader ever. The deal will also allow Israel to use Cyprus' air space and territorial waters for aerial and naval search and rescue drills. The Prime Minister's Office said that the deal was inked as part of the two nations' efforts to "strengthen the improving ties between the two nations, as well as boost energy security in both countries." Netanyahu traveled to Cyprus with a mission of 20 high-level government officials, including Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau and the directors of Israel's National Security and National Economic councils.[30]

In April 2012 Foreign Minister made a three-day visit to Nicosia to discuss the gas-sharing agreement to exploit reserves that fall on the maritime boundary between the two countries.[31][32] Lieberman later discussed the prospects of further expansion of cooperation between the two countries in the fields of energy, tourism and investment with Commerce and Industry Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis.[33] Lieberman said relations between the two countries are probably at their best stage since the establishment of Cyprus and Israel.[34][35]

On 2 September 2013 President of the Cypriot House of Representatives Yiannakis Omirou and the Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein signed a protocol of cooperation between their countries' Parliaments. After the singing of the protocol Yiannakis Omirou expressed his enthusiasm for the setting up of a Cyprus-Israeli Friendship Group in the respective parliaments. Edelstein announced that the signing of the memorandum is a testament to the joint efforts and close cooperation between the two countries and will increase connection in the years to come.[36] On 2 September 2013 the President of Democratic Rally, Averof Neophytou in a press conference in Nicosia characterised Israel as Cyprus' most reliable ally.[37][38][39]

Economic relations[edit]

Cyprus-Israel Business Association is hosted in the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism in the Makariou Avenue

The Cypriot media report that the country could receive natural gas from Israel in early 2015, at reduced prices, if discussions on the supply of small quantities are completed by the end of the year, as the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Neoklis Sylikiotis has announced in a press conference about a visit to Israel by a high-ranking Cypriot delegation.[40] The Cypriot government is seeking an interim energy solution until its own natural gas reserves can be developed. Minister Sylikiotis said that Israel is positive in supplying Cyprus a small quantity of natural gas, 0.5-0.7 billion cubic meters, for electricity production. He added that Cyprus would import Israeli gas in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG) through contracts between Electricity Authority of Cyprus and Israel Electric Corporation (IEC). [41][42] Export proposals also include building a pipeline from Israel, Cyprus and finally to Greece or combining the gas from discoveries off Cyprus and Israel at a joint LNG plant as soon as 2018 that will be built in the southern city of Larnaca.[43] Another option suggested by Noble was to build a plant in Jordan to ship the fuel to Asia through the Red Sea.[44][45]

Cyprus-Israel Business Association[edit]

With the cooperation of both Cypriot and Israeli government in 2008 Cyprus-Israel Business Association was formed and is held annually in Nicosia, Cyprus. It headquarters in Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry building[46] and contacts Ministry of Finance of both Israel and Cyprus to coordinate an increase in financial bonds of the two countries. In the annual forum of Cyprus-Israel Business Association speakers from key positions from both countries take part.[47] In September 2011 Chief Executive Officer of the Tel-Aviv Stock Exchange Ester Levanon visited Cyprus to present “The Tel-Aviv Stock Exchange as a reflection of the Israeli Economy”.[48] Other prominent speakers include Ex-Ministers of Commerce and Trade Praxoulla Antoniadou Kyriacou and Antonis Paschalides, the President and the Secretary-General of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry Manthos Mavrommatis, the President and the General Manager of the Cyprus Stock Exchange George Koufaris, the Ambassador of Israel Michael Harari and the Ambassador of Belgium Christakis Papavassiliou.[49][50]

In 2013 Cyprus-Israel Business Association conferences took place in Jerusalem and even though the participants of 100 Israeli companies and the 30 Cypriot firms discuss how to increase cooperation in fields ranging “from milk to gas,” the main emphasis was on the Mediterranean natural resource that each of the countries has the potential to export.[51][52] In May 2013 the President of the Israel-Cyprus Business Association Christakis Papavasilious announced “the new historic era” that Cyprus and Israel are entering together in regards to the economic aspect, and that both countries should rely on each other in order to push forward.[52][53]

Electricity connection between Cyprus, Israel and Greece[edit]

Electricity connection between Hadera of Israel and Vasilikos in Cyprus is one of the projects that will be funded by the European Union in the framework of the programme Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).[54] According to a press release issued by the European Commission the amount earmarked for the Hadera Israel-Vasilikos Cyprus connection is approximately €1.325m. The project is based on an undersea cable for the connection of the electricity systems of Israel, Cyprus and Greece. Its capacity will be 2000 MW and its length approximately 1518 km. It will include three connections: 329 km between Israel and Cyprus, 879 km between Cyprus and Crete and 310 km between Crete and mainland Greece and will allow electricity transmission to both directions.[55]

Military collaboration[edit]

In October 2011 Phileleftheros newspaper published a document detailing a military exercise between Israel and Cyprus, which included mid-air refuelling of fighter jets and quick touchdown landings by Israel Air Force combat helicopters in Cyprus.[56][57] In 2013 Israel is expecting to receive approval from the Cypriot government to station military jets at the Andreas Papandreou airbase in the city of Paphos, creating the first Israeli military station outside the Israel. It is unknown if the plans include a permanent military presence on the island, with a full-time deployment of airmen.[58][59][60] In April 2013 it was reported that Israel was set to send warships to the eastern Mediterranean for a joint military exercise with the Republic of Cyprus. Cypriot Defense Minister Fotis Fotiou confirmed that the joint exercise, which will include the participation of four or five Israeli warships, would start on 25 April. Fotiou also noted that Cyprus will focus on the security of the eastern Mediterranean region and that of gas companies. On 9 April the Minister of Defence, Fotis Fotiou, met at his office with the Ambassador of Israel Michael Harari. In an official statement after the meeting Michael Harari expressed his view that Israel and Cyprus are determined to strengthen and deepen their relations in all areas in favor of their peoples and the region in general.[61] In early May 2013 Israel Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Cypriot Defence Minister Fotis Fitiou met in Tel Aviv to set the foundations for a coordinated cooperation in energy security issues. On his return to Cyprus, the Cyprus Defense Minister announced that during his meeting in Tel Aviv, they also decided to set up technical committees to promote the issues examined. Moshe Ya'alon referred to the stragetic relationship between the two countries and their benefit from the natural-gas field that lies between their shores. He added that Israel intends to improve the preparedness of its navy in the Mediterranean to protect the gas facilities of Israel and Cyprus."[62][63]

On 11 February 2014 between 11am and 1am Israel and Cyprus held a joint military exercise codenamed ‘Onisilos-Gideon’ in Cypriot FIR and the scheduled drill occurred inside the Nicosia flight information region (FIR).[64] Israeli fighter jets carried out flybys over areas south of Limassol featuring 32 F15 and F16 jets and six more support aircraft of the Israeli Air Force, the exercise included simulated firing at targets on land and sea along the southern coast from Limassol to Paphos.[65][66]

"Onisilos-Gideon" October 2014[edit]

On 21 October 2014 Israel and Cyprus held joint military exercise that included aerial maneuvers by Israeli Air Force fighter jets in Cypriot airspace in collaboration with the Cypriot National Guard. Another part of the military drill took place in Cypriot territorial waters off the island of Crete.[67][68]

Memorandum of Understanding[edit]

On 21 December 2011 Israeli minister of public security, Avi Dichter, with the Cypriot Minister of Interior Eleni Mavrou, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) ensuring the mutual protection and assistance between the two countries in the field of disaster management and civil protection. The MoU provides for collaboration and sharing practices on how to prepare the population for disasters and crises.[69][70]

Environmental cooperation[edit]

A new desalination plant operates in Limassol, launched by the National Water Company Mekorot. The destination plant has the capacity to produce up to 40,000 cubic metres (11,000,000 US gal) of desalinated potable water daily. At the inauguration of the plant in August 2013, there were present both President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades and Israeli Minister of Energy and Water Resources Silvan Shalom.[71][72] Cypriot Minister of Agriculture Nicos Kouyalis and Israel Minister of Energy and Water Resources Silvan Shalom met between 24 and 27 August 2013, during which they discussed issues pertaining to water development, management and protection based on the larger framework of the Memorandum of Understanding. There was high level of discussion at a technocratic level which is targeting at the further reinforcement of the cooperation and the exchange of experiences and knowledge, particularly relating to urban waste water treatment and the use of recycled water in agriculture.[73][73]

Cyprus fires in June 2016[edit]

Cyprus in 18 June asked help from Israel after a fire was raging out of control in Argaka and other forest areas close to Evrychou which had approximately burned seventeen square kilometres of wild vegetation, hay and pine forest and could not be brought under control due to strong winds. Israel immediately sent three airtankers in 19 June, and an additional plane carrying 36 cubic meters of firefighting foam flew to the island in 20 June, per the Cypriot government request.[74][75] Greece, Britain, Italy and France also sent helicopters and planes to aid in the firefighting efforts.

In 20 June Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the weekly Cabintet meeting announced he was pleased his country was able to extend assistance to Cyprus in order to put out the fire that broke out near Argaka and recalled that in 2010, during the massive Mount Carmel forest fire, the first person to contact for assistance was the President of Cyprus Demetris Christofias.[76] Cyprus[77] dispatched its only helicopter and plane to assist in the fire-fighting effort.

In 28 June Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades thanked from his bottom of his heart the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu in their telephone conversation.

Educational collaboration[edit]

In June 2016 Cyprus and Israel signed a programme of cooperation in the sectors of culture, education and science, for a period of three years (2016-2019), during an official visit of the Cypriot Minister of Education and Culture Costas Kadis to Israel. Cyprus Minister Costas Kadis visited Israel between 22 and 23 of June, at the invitation of his Israeli counterpart Naftali Bennett.[78] During their meeting both Ministers emphasised the importance of strengthening the cooperation of the two countries in the field of education and especially in higher education. Naftali Benntett accepted the invitation of the Cypriot Minister to visit Cyprus with representatives of Universities and Research Centres of Israel to continue the dialogue and to identify areas of common interest for cooperation in higher education.[79]

Cultural collaboration[edit]

Iron-age Cypriot White Painted Ware displayed at Israeli National Maritime Museum, Haifa

With the initiative of Cyprus Ministry of Education a number of exchange programmes have been funded between Israeli and Cypriot students from years 12 to 18. The Israeli Yacht club and Famagusta District Sailing Club organised between 1–4 October 2012 the first "Cyprus-Israel Regatta" during which participants sailed from Larnaca to Tel Aviv.[80] In August 2012 both countries signed a treaty to cooperate in forming a bank that will host the important amount of data which results from the numerous excavations that are conducted in both Israel and Cyprus.[81] On 18 May 2013 Cypriot public was offered the opportunity to experience Israeli culture at the New Theatre Building of THOC in Nicosia through an exclusive series of cultural events and artistic happenings. Those who attended experienced some of Israel’s best works of art, including theatre, children’s puppet show, films and a photograph exhibition.[82]

Emotional factor[edit]

Relations between Cyprus and Israel have been excessively strong, thus many Cypriots and Israelis usually refer to it as Cypriot-Israeli brotherhood and consider the other nation an ally and a brother-nation.[39][83] Cyprus and Israel consider each other as being the only two democracies in the Eastern Mediterranean, leading the leader of Democratic Rally Averof Neofytou in September 2013 to support that Israel is Cyprus most reliable partner.[84] President of Israel Shimon Peres has claimed that Cyprus is Israel's most predictable neighbour.[85] As a sign of the emotional bonding between Israel and Cyprus there has been a high level of exchange of representation for various events in both countries such as the representation of the Israeli government at the funeral of Cypriot fourth President Glafcos Clerides by the Israeli Minister of Tourism Uzi Landau in November 2013 and the visit of the Cypriot Minister of Defence Fotis Fotiou to the funeral of ex-Prime Minister of Israel Ariel Sharon.

Visits[edit]

Poster exhibition about Israel in Onasagorou Street by students of Frederick University in English and Greek
Guest Host Place of visit Date of visit
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias Israel President Shimon Peres Tel Aviv, Israel March 2011
Israel President Shimon Peres Cyprus President Demetris Christofias Larnaca, Cyprus November 2011
Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman Cyprus Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis Limassol, Cyprus December 2011
Cyprus Defence Minister of Cyprus Demetris Eliades Israel Defence Minister Ehud Barak Jerusalem, Israel 8 January 2012
Cyprus Leader of the Opposition Nicos Anastasiades Israel President Shimon Peres Jerusalem, Israel 9–12 January 2012
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Cyprus President Demetris Christofias Nicosia, Cyprus February 2012
Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulidis Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Jerusalem, Israel April 2013
Cyprus Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis Israel Energy Minister Uzi Landau Jerusalem, Israel April 2013
Cyprus Defense Minister Fotis Fotiou Israel Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon Tel Aviv, Israel 2 May 2013
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Jerusalem, Israel 5–7 May 2013
Israel Minister of Energy and Water Resources Silvan Shalom Cyprus Energy and Trade Minister George Lakkotrypis Nicosia, Cyprus 8 August 2013
Cyprus Minister of Agriculture Nicos Kouyialis Israel Minister of Energy and Water Resources Silvan Shalom Tel Aviv, Israel 24–27 August 2013
Israel Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein Cyprus President of Parliament Yiannakis Omirou Nicosia, Cyprus 1–3 September 2013
Israel Minister of Tourism Uzi Landau Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades Nicosia, Cyprus November 2013
Cyprus Minister of Defence Fotis Fotiou Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Jerusalem, Israel 12–13 January 2014
Israel Minister of Defence Moshe Ya'alon Cyprus Minister of Defence Fotis Fotiou Paphos, Cyprus February 2014
Cyprus Minister of Foreign Affairs Ioannis Kasoulidis Israel President Shimon Peres Jerusalem, Israel 19–20 February 2014
Israel Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades Nicosia, Cyprus 5–6 November 2014
Cyprus Predient Nicos Anastasiades Israel President Benjamin Netanyahu Jerusalem, Israel June 2015
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades Nicosia, Cyprus 28 July 2015
Cyprus Minister of Health Giorgos Pamporidis Israel Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman Tel Aviv, Israel January 2016
Israel Minister of Defence Moshe Ya'alon Cyprus Minister of Defence Christoforos Fokaides Nicosia, Cyprus 24 February 2016
Cyprus Minister of Education and Culture Costas Kadis Israel Minister of Education Naftali Bennett Jerusalem, Israel 22–23 June 2016
Cyprus Minister of Transportation Marios Demetriadis Israel Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz Tel Aviv, Israel 14 July 2016
Cyprus Predient Nicos Anastasiades Israel President Benjamin Netanyahu Jerusalem, Israel 24 July 2016

Country comparison[edit]

 Cyprus  Israel
Population 1,099,341 7,412,200
Area 9,251 km2 (3,572sq mi) 20,770 km2 (8,019 mi)
Population density 117/km2 (221/sq mi) 347/km2 (925/sq mi)
Capital Nicosia Jerusalem (disputed)
Largest city Nicosia – 398,293 Jerusalem – 780,200 (disputed)
Government Presidential republic Parliamentary republic
Official languages Greek and Turkish Hebrew and Arabic
Main religions[citation needed] 81% Christianity, 18% Muslim, 1% Others 75,4% Jews, 20,6% Muslim, 7,8% Others
Ethnic groups[citation needed] 78.9% Greek (Cypriot), 18.2% Turkish Cypriot 75,4% Jews, 20,6% Arab, 4,1% Others
GDP (nominal) US$24.949 billion (US$30,570 per capita) US$236.994 billion ($31,467 per capita)
Military expenditures $510,000,000 (1.8% of GDP) $50,600,000,000(6.9%% of GDP)
Military Troops 13,000 176,500
English Speakers 87% 84.97%
Labour Forces 403,000 3,227,000

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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