Associate Press copy is provided via The Canadian Press
Cypriot president Nikos Christodoulides, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talk to the media during a press conference after their meeting at the presidential palace in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2023. An official statement said Christodoulides and Netanyahu will touch on expanding energy cooperation and bilateral ties, as well as Israel’s relations with the European Union. The leaders’ meeting comes a day ahead of a trilateral meeting that will include Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. (Iakovos Hatzistavrou Pool via AP)By Menelaos Hadjicostis in Nicosia
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Israel’s prime minister on Sunday floated the idea of building infrastructure projects such as a fiber optic cable linking countries in Asia and the Arabian Peninsula with Europe through Israel and Cyprus.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he’s “quite confident” such an infrastructure “corridor” linking Asia to Europe through Israel and Cyprus is feasible.
He said such projects could happen if Israel normalizes relations with other countries in the region. The 2020 U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords normalized relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and the Biden administration is trying to establish official ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
“An example and 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 after talks with Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides.
The Israeli leader’s pitch is itself an extension of proposed energy links with Cyprus and Greece as part of growing collaboration on energy in the wake of discoveries of significant natural gas deposits in the economic zones of both Israel and Cyprus.
Netanyahu repeated that he and Christodoulides are looking to follow through on plans for a 2,000-megawatt undersea electricity cable known as the EurAsia Interconnector connecting Israel with Cyprus and Greece that aims to act as an energy supply back-up for both Israel and Cyprus.
“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 said. “That is something that we’re discussing seriously and we hope to achieve.”
Another energy link involves a Cypriot proposal to build a pipeline that would convey offshore natural gas from both Israel and Cyprus to the east Mediterranean island nation where it would be fuel for electricity generators or potentially be liquefied for export by ship.
Christodoulides said given Europe’s need for energy diversification in light of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Cyprus and Israel are looking to developing “a reliable energy corridor” linking the East Mediterranean basin to Europe through projects including gas pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) processing plants.
Netanyahu said his government fully backs a European decision to create a regional fire fighting hub in Cyprus from which aircraft and other technology could be dispatched to help put out fires in neighboring countries.
“The climate isn’t going to get cooler. It’s going to get hotter. And with, you know, with the heating up of our region and the globe, firefighting becomes a really important thing. We can I think we can do it better together,” the Israeli leader said.
Talks between Christodoulides and Netanyahu precede a trilateral meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Monday.
Since 2016 such meetings between the leaders of the three countries have become a staple of what they said are burgeoning ties that Netanyahu described as “a deep friendship, both personal, but also between our nations” that is “real” and “long overdue.”