[Marxism] Birth of a Geopolitical Bloc: The Israel-Greece-Cyprus Axis
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Wed Feb 3 06:36:07 MST 2016
Birth of a Geopolitical Bloc: The Israel-Greece-Cyprus Axis
The proximate cause may be natural gas, but the ultimate cause of the
new alignment is Turkey.
Arye Mekel Jan 31, 2016 4:51 AM
Cypriot president Nicos Anastasides, center, Greek Prime Minister Alexis
Tsipras, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after their
meeting in Nicosia, Cyprus, January 28, 2016.AP
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Last week saw an unprecedented flurry of diplomatic activity that
culminated with a summit of the Israeli, Greek and Cypriot leaders in
Nicosia. For Israel, this is a win-win development, creating a new
geopolitical bloc in the eastern Mediterranean in which closer relations
with Greece and Cyprus counterbalance Turkey to some extent. It also has
some military and security significance.
On Tuesday Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon paid an official visit to
Athens as the guest of his Greek counterpart Panos Kammenos. On
Wednesday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and several cabinet
colleagues met in Jerusalem with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and
around a dozen Greek cabinet members. On Thursday, the leaders of all
three countries met in Nicosia.
Ya’alon’s visit to Greece followed intensive defense cooperation between
the two states in recent years, consisting mainly of frequent joint air
force and navy maneuvers. Since 2014 an Israel Defense Forces attache
has been stationed in Athens, with responsibility for Cyprus as well.
In a statement at a press conference with the Greek defense minister, Ya’alon
said Turkey supports terror and buys petroleum from the Islamic State
organization. At the conclusion of the Nicosia summit, which Netanyahu
termed historic, Netanyahu, Tsipras and Cyprus President Nicos
Anastasiades issued a joint statement saying their cooperation was not
exclusive, making it clear that Turkey could join the group. The leaders
of Greece and Cyprus stressed that the cooperation is not aimed against
any other state, hinting at Turkey.
The Turkish shadow hovered over all of last week’s meetings. The reports
of Israel’s talks with Turkey to achieve a reconciliation agreement,
with the United States’ encouragement, pushed the Greeks and Cypriots to
expand their cooperation with Israel. Although Greece claims its
relations with Turkey are normal and despite the talks between the
Turkish and Greek leaders in Cyprus in a bid to solve the 40-year
crisis, Athens and Nicosia still view Turkey as a potential enemy.
Greece says Turkey is deliberately moving masses of Arab refugees into
it, to harm it, and Cyprus is still partially under Turkish occupation,
which began in 1974.
Tsipras’ policy toward Israel is surprising and impressive. Tsipras,
whose left-wing Syriza party was very critical of Israel, is conducting
a centrist policy both inside Greece and in foreign affairs. He is
continuing to upgrade his country’s relations with Israel, which began
Since relations began to improve, Greece has feared that an
Israeli-Turkish reconciliation would be at its expense. Israel is making
efforts to allay this fear. Tsipras wants to prove Greece has its own
status in the east Mediterranean and has even announced his desire to
help solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Greece is prepared to help Israel in the European Union institutions and
has already proved it when it recently headed the opponents to marking
products made in the West Bank settlements.
This is a sharp change in Greek’s policy in the EU. Until 2010 Greece
was one of the least friendly states to Israel, alongside Portugal and
Ireland. Cyprus supports Greece’s positions almost automatically, so
that gives Greece a double vote in EU institutions. Another Israeli
advantage is that it may encourage Syria to be more flexible in its
negotiations with Israel over normalizing the relations.
Cyprus of course has its own score with Turkey and is also interested in
demonstrating its independence to the Turks. Israel and Cyprus have
close military ties, which began to be forged a few years ago in the
days of Communist President Demetris Christofias. This policy is being
upheld by the conservative Anastasiades.
The joint statement in Nicosia after the tripartite summit said the
states’ cooperation would focus on seven areas — energy, tourism,
research and technology, environment, water, migration and fighting
terror. It was also decided to examine relaunching the East Med gas
pipeline project, which would funnel Israeli natural gas to Europe via
Cyprus and Greece.
This last issue is far from concluded. Israel doesn’t know how much gas
it will have, whether it will be able to export it, to whom and how. It
has been holding talks with Greece and Cyprus on this for several years
with no real results. Laying a gas pipeline is possible, but is
technically very complicated and will cost several billion dollars.
Turkish companies are also interested in the Israeli gas, creating a
further incentive for Greece and Cyprus to move ahead in this area.
The author, Israel’s ambassador to Greece from 2010 to 2014, is a senior
research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies,
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.700464
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