Report: Israel to deploy 20,000 commandos in Greek Cyprus
Turkish news agency reports of Israel's plan to deploy commandos to safeguard Israelis, natural gas plant on Greek island; Agency estimates number of Israeli citizens in area to rise to 30,000
Aviel Magnezi Published: 05.20.12, 18:47
Israel plans to deploy 20,000 commandos in Greek Cyprus in order to protect its energy projects in the region, Anatolia news agency reported Sunday.
According to the puzzling report, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Greek Cypriot counterpart, Demetris Christofias, met in February in order to discuss the two countries' joint ventures.
Netanyahu reportedly offered to undertake all of the expenses required to construct a gas plant needed to extract the natural gas found in the Mediterranean Sea. In exchange for his offer, the prime minister asked that all of the 10,000 personnel that would work at the plant be brought in from Israel with their families, increasing the number of Israeli citizens in the area to nearly 30,000.
The high number of Israelis in Greek Cyprus would present a security issue, which Netanyahu suggested be solved by sending as many as 20,000 Israeli commandos to safeguard both the Israelis and the natural gas plant, the agency said.
According to the report, Israel offered to place the personnel and commandos in Limassol in Greek Cyprus."The Israelis who come, settle here for good," the news agency's source in Greek Cyprus said.
The Turkish news agency further cited a source, claiming that the Greek Cypriot government headed by Christofias, specifically asked Netanyahu to convince Israeli businessmen to halt their investments in Turkish Cyprus.
Israel and the internationally-recognized Republic of Cyprus have both discovered huge offshore natural gas deposits beneath the Mediterranean Sea, and have tentatively discussed cooperation on delivering gas to European and Asian markets.
The drilling for gas and oil in the seabed off Cyprus which began last year angered Turkey, which says it abuses northern Cypriots' rights to the same resources.
Turkey's relations with Israel have soured since Israeli commandos in 2010 stormed a Turkish ship carrying activists trying to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza, killing nine Turks.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops occupied the northern third in response to a Greek-inspired coup in Nicosia aimed at union with Greece.