Israel, Greece and Cyprus agree to cooperate on wildfires

Israel, Greece and Cyprus have agreed to fight wildfires together, as well as cooperating on natural gas production.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Netanyahu at Cyprus Summit
Netanyahu at Cyprus Summit
Haim Tzach

(AFP) - Israel, Greece and Cyprus have agreed to launch a regional force for tackling fires and other natural disasters, their leaders said Thursday.

Speaking before a three-way summit at which they were expected to discuss Mediterranean offshore gas, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the force would also respond to earthquakes and floods.

"We have agreed to move forward on a multi-national, regional rescue and emergency services force, to be formed by our three countries," he said, voicing hope that other countries would join.Netanyahu did not specify the size of the force or where it would be based.

The announcement comes two weeks after Greek and Cypriot personnel helped extinguish some of Israel's worst wildfires in years.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he was "proud" of the role Greek planes played in dousing fires in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, as he backed the joint force initiative.

In June Israel provided six aircraft to help bring Cypriot wildfires under control.Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said the two operations were a clear example of how "effective cooperation" could help eastern Mediterranean countries. "Cyprus, Israel and Greece stand side by side" when facing crises," he added.

At a previous summit in January the three countries discussed the development of a gas pipeline from Israel to Europe. Both Israel and Cyprus have discovered offshore gas in recent years.

Tsipras said Thursday he wanted to move forward with the plans, with the aim of Greece becoming "an energy transit center of Israeli and Cypriot national gas to Europe." He hailed Israel's decision this week to give the green light for the sale.