Benjamin Netanyahu .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled on Tuesday to take his first visit abroad since his reelection in March, traveling 45 minutes to Cyprus for a visit of less than 12 hours.
Netanyahu’s visit to Cyprus follows by just over a month a visit to Jerusalem by Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, whom Netanyahu welcomed as a “great friend of Israel.”
While a large focus of the talks between the two leaders in Nicosia is expected to center on energy and gas matters, the two men are also expected to discuss the Palestinian issue.
During his meeting with Netanyahu last month's, Anastasiades – in an effort to serve a role in kick-starting negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians
– suggested that both Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas address, albeit in separate meetings, the heads of the EU in Brussels.
Netanyahu reportedly was open to the idea, as was Abbas, with whom Anastasiades subsequently discussed the matter.
He also discussed the idea with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and with President of the European Council Donald Tusk.
The Cyprus Mail on Monday quoted Cyprus government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides as saying that Anastasiades will speak again to Sisi, Abbas and Tusk prior to his meeting Tuesday with Netanyahu.
The Cypriot spokesman said Netanyahu and Anastasiades will discuss energy issues, as well as economy, regional issues and security.
An Iranian-Hezbollah cell was uncovered in Cyprus in June, when a terrorist – who was just sentenced to six years in prison – was arrested for stockpiling tons of ammonium-nitrate fertilizer that can be used to make explosives.
Israeli officials say the two countries have a good security relationship.
In 2012 Netanyahu made the first ever visit by an Israeli premier to the island, signaling a significant improvement of ties with the country, which until some eight years ago was considered among the most hostile countries to Israel in Europe.
As was the case with Greece, Israel’s ties with Cyprus began to blossom as Jerusalem’s relationship with Turkey
deteriorated over the last number of years.
But mutual difficulties with Turkey is not the only reason for the improvement of ties. The benefits of cooperating in the energy field – be it through the possibility of building a gas pipeline from Israel to Cyprus,and then further on to Europe; or cooperation in developing natural gas deposits in each country’s exclusive economic zones – have brought the two states closer together.
Announcing the visit last week, Netanyahu issued a statement saying Israel and Cyprus have many common interests in the fields of security, economy and energy. “We will continue to work to strengthen the ties between the countries,” he said.
Last month, during Anastasiades visit to Israel, Netanyahu said the two countries were “close friends, and in many ways this friendship, which is so natural to two democracies on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean, is flowing and developing.”