Israel could be part of regional and European solutions to fiber optics and natural gas linked to the Arab world, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after landing in Cyprus Sunday for a trilateral meeting that will also include Greece.
“We have the possibility of making real the idea of an Asia-Middle East-Europe corridor, especially infrastructure” that would be the extension of the Abraham Accords, Netanyahu said during a joint press event with Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides.
Such a plan could also involve countries with which Israel seeks to normalize ties, Netanyahu said. Those words hinted at the possibility that such a deal could also involve Saudi Arabia.
“I'm quite confident that we will have a corridor that could go through Israel, from the Arabian Peninsula, from Asia to the Arabian Peninsula to Israel to Cyprus, and from there to Europe.”Benjamin Netanyahu
“I’m quite confident that we will have a corridor that could go through Israel, from Asia to the Arabian Peninsula to Israel to Cyprus, and from there to Europe.
“An example of the most obvious one is a fiber optic connection. That’s the shortest route. It’s the safest route. It’s the most economic route,” Netanyahu said.
“That gives us the ability to, not be – forgive the expression – islands. I’m not sure being an island is so bad. We in Israel often even wished that we’d been an island,” he joked.
Then on a serious note, he added, “but you certainly don’t want to be an energy island. You want to be connected to other sources of power that can allow a more optimal use of power. Or give you power when there is a failure in your own country,” Netanyahu explained.
In that vein, he said, his discussions in Cyprus will also include conversations “about various options for cooperation in natural gas. We’ve been very fortunate, both our countries, in discovering reserves of gas. And we’re talking about how we could cooperate in this,” he said.
The two men issued public statements in advance of a trilateral meeting Monday with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to discuss the two energy projects.
Building a regional firefighting center in Cyprus
Separately, Netanyahu also spoke of the importance of European plans to build a regional firefighting and emergency center here in Cyprus.
“It will serve, I think, not only Cyprus, Israel, Greece, but other countries in the region,” Netanyahu said as he explained that Israel wants to be part of those plans by providing expertise on how to involve artificial intelligence with firefighting.
“Increasingly our firefighting efforts in Israel are not only using planes, but using AI systems, which immeasurably increase the ability to put out fires,” Netanyahu said.
His visit to Cyprus boosted Israel’s efforts to strengthen ties with other regional countries such as Turkey.
Energy and Infrastructure Minister Israel Katz said he spoke to Turkish energy minister Alparsian Bayraktar and Senior Adviser for Middle East Regional Integration Dan Shapiro.
Bayraktar tweeted about the conversation, explaining that they discussed cooperation in the field of natural gas. He added that he planned to visit Israel.
Netanyahu is also expected to visit Turkey, a country, which has recently repaired its strained ties with Israel. Such a visit would be Netanyahu’s first as prime minister and it would mark the first time in 15 years that someone in that office had visited Turkey.
Netanyahu’s visit to Cyprus comes as he is waiting to see if he will receive an invitation to visit US President Joe Biden in the White House. Biden has said that the two will meet but has not set a date or confirmed that it would be at the White House.
Biden has been hesitant to set a meeting with Netanyahu in light of his opposition to the Israeli government’s judicial reform program.
Israeli activists in Cyprus who oppose the plan, intend to hold a protest against near Netanyahu’s trilateral meeting Monday with the Greek and Cypriot leaders. •