Middle East News
Israel leader pays historic visit to Cyprus
Feb 16, 2012, 8:45 GMT
Athens/Nicosia - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Cyprus Thursday - the first ever visit by an Israeli leader - to discuss expanding energy cooperation.
The visit to the nearby eastern Mediterranean island was likely to irk Israel's former ally Turkey, which has challenged Cyprus's jurisdiction over offshore gas and oil finds.
According to Cypriot radio reports, Netanyahu's talks with Cypriot President Demetris Christofias will focus on cooperation in the natural gas sector and further steps to increase energy security in the two countries.
Other issues on the agenda include cooperation in maritime research, health and agriculture.
Ankara says the Greek Cypriots, who represent the internationally recognised government of Cyprus, have no jurisdiction to search for offshore oil and gas. It has said it will carry out its own exploration off northern Cyprus with the Turkish Cypriot authorities.
Natural gas reserves have been found beneath the seabed between Cyprus and Israel.
Earlier this week, the Greek Cypriots launched a second licensing round for offshore exploratory drilling, hoping that potential fossil fuel deposit discoveries would boost the eurozone country's sagging economy.
U.S. company Noble Energy began exploratory drilling last year in Block 12, the most south-eastern section of the Cypriot economic zone that sits close to a huge Israeli gas field.
Cyprus was split into an internationally recognized Greek-speaking south and a breakaway Turkish-speaking north in 1974, when Turkey invaded the island in response to a short-lived coup by supporters of a union with Greece.
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