Heightened tension was noted in the eastern Mediterranean Sea on Thursday amid
reports that Israeli, British and Turkish naval forces were conducting
simultaneous maneuvers near Cyprus.
Cypriot media reports claimed that
Israel and the UK requested and received permission from Cyprus to hold their
maneuvers but that the Turkish Navy did not, and as a result Nicosia was
considering submitting an official complaint to the United Nations.
between Israel, Cyprus and Greece have grown in recent years following the
discovery of gas fields in the Mediterranean, some of them in areas that border
Israeli and Cypriot economic waters. Ankara is opposed to Jerusalem’s decision
to partner with Nicosia and has announced that it too will be conducting gas
exploration in the area.
“With all of these navies in the region
something could happen,” one European diplomat said on Thursday when discussing
IDF sources could not confirm reports but the navy
announced earlier this week that it was increasing its patrols in the eastern
Mediterranean, to protect gas fields where Israel is planning to begin
extraction within the coming year.
In addition, the navy is looking to
secure a NIS 3 billion budget to purchase new surface vessels it claims are
needed to effectively patrol and protect the new economic waters.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Gregory Delavekouras said Thursday that Turkey’s
naval maneuvers were a violation of Cypriot sovereignty.
efforts of Turkey to question the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus as well
as to offend European institutions, such as the EU presidency, need to be put to
an end. It is a wrong perception that leads nowhere,” Delavekouras said at a
briefing in Athens.
Coincidentally, Greek navy commander Vice Admiral
Kosmas Christidis wrapped up a four-day visit to Israel on Thursday, during
which he met with OC Navy Vice- Adm. Ram Rothberg and sailed on a Sa’ar 5-class
Defense officials said it was the first time that the
commander of the Hellenic Navy has visited Israel, which they pointed to as a
demonstration of the growing ties between the two countries.
has significantly boosted its defense ties with Athens – to replace Ankara,
which used to be the IDF’s main training partner.