image Photo: Israeli Ministry of Defense

Israel holds defense talks with Cyprus, Greece

Israel has signed a defense agreement with Greece and Cyprus to collaborate on mutual challenges and threats in 2021, while advancing common interests in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The reaffirmation of the trilateral commitment came during talks at the presidential palace in Nicosia, following talks between Israeli Alternate Premier and Defense Minister Benny Gantz with Cypriot Defense Minister Charalambos Petrides and their Greek counterpart, Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos.

The Israeli Defense Minister hailed the talks as “another important milestone” in the partnership between the three nations and emphasized the importance of the allies’ regional cooperation “to advance our mil2mil partnership. He also stated that the fourth annual trilateral summit will be hosted by Jerusalem.

Gantz also held talks with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades. The two leaders reaffirmed their will “to extend and expand the excellent relations between Cyprus and Israel, especially as far as security is concerned,” said Cypriot Government Spokesman Panayiotis Senontas, stressing, “The cooperation between the two countries aims to promote peace, security and stability in our region.”

Senontas said that Anastasiades also briefed Gantz on the latest developments in the Cyprus problem, as well as on the ongoing Turkish provocations in the East Mediterranean Sea in both the Cyprus exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and Varosha, reported the Cyprus Mail newspaper.

In later remarks, Israel’s top defense official expressed frustration with other regional actors, in a veiled reference to Turkey, Iran and their proxies.

“At this historic moment of international reconciliation, where we see bridges being built instead of walls, Israel is as committed as ever to supporting nations who favor peace over conflict and exchange over aggression,” he said, adding, “Unfortunately, not all states have chosen this path, and peace-seeking nations must remain united and prepared to jointly confront threats posed by radical regimes and terror organizations who choose aggression and violence.”

Minister Gantz insisted that, “while Israel will always prefer dialogue over military force, and extend its hand to anyone who desires to join the path of peace – we cannot ignore threats jeopardizing our citizens. Even now, our forces are on heightened security alert across our borders,” underscoring that, “our enemies know very well how strong we are and that they will bear the consequences of any violation of sovereignty to our nation and territory.”

On a personal note, Gantz said he was “honored to travel as Israel’s defense minister to Cyprus,” which was “the very country where my parents were married, as Displaced Persons in an internment camp, while on their quest to reach Eretz Israel after the Holocaust.”

Lt. Gen. (res.) Gantz said he shared the story with Cypriot President Anastasiades “as we discussed the excellent ties between our countries to date, and carried it with me as I moved on to a trilateral dialogue with my counterparts,” and said “I am so proud to be part of our nation’s remarkable story, past, present, and future.”