PM Binyamin Netanyahu
PM Binyamin Netanyahu Israel news photo: Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is about to become the first Israeli prime minister to make a state visit to Cyprus.

Netanyahu is scheduled to visit the island nation in February, according to a source in Jerusalem. Last week 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.

The two nations last week signed several defense agreements, the Lebanon-based Daily Star reported, "including one on intelligence gathering."

The visit, which has been under wraps, will focus on bilateral cooperation on security, especially in light of the recent search for natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean. 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.
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