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Report: Israel Considering Placing IAF Aircraft in Cyprus

Israel is planning to place military aircraft in Cyprus, according to a Cypriot defense website.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 2/8/2012, 5:43 AM

Cypriot Defense Minister Demetrius Eliades and Defense Minister Ehud Barak
Cypriot Defense Minister Demetrius Eliades and Defense Minister Ehud Barak
Flash 90

Israel is planning to place military aircraft in Cyprus, according to a Channel 10 News report on Tuesday.

The report cited Israeli officials who said the issue may be raised during Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to Nicosia later this month. The officials added, however, that a final decision on the matter has not yet been made.

An official at the Israeli Embassy in Cyprus told Channel 10 that Netanyahu’s visit is intended to highlight the good relations between the two countries and strengthen their bilateral relations. A local site in Cyprus reported, however, that Israel has asked Cyprus to place fighter jets at a local air force base in Paphos.

The embassy official told Channel 10 that the issue is still not agreed upon and is in its preliminary exploratory stages. “It is not clear whether it will happen or not,” he said, noting that the possibility that the Israeli Air Force will run a base off the coast of Israel exists.

Netanyahu will be the first Israeli prime minister to make a state visit to Cyprus when he visits the island nation. Last month Cypriot Defense Minister Demetrius Eliades visited the Jewish State, and last November President Shimon Peres became the first Israeli president to visit Cyprus. Several other Cypriot leaders met with Jerusalem officials last week as well.

Israel has made an effort to tighten its ties with both Cyprus and Greece over the past few years, particularly in light of Turkey's growing hostility and movement towards radical Muslim elements in the region.

Lebanon has expressed anger over Israel's drilling in wells that have, for the most part, produced abundant supplies of the precious resource off the northwestern coast of the Jewish State, contending the maritime boundaries of the field.

Turkey has begun to hint it will do the same with Cyprus, which is participating with Israel in a similar exploration in the eastern Mediterranean between the island nation and the Jewish State. The island nation has been divided between Greek and Turkish ethnic boundaries since 1974, with Turkey taking over the northern part of the island.