Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos (L) and his Israeli and Cypriot counterparts Avigdor Liberman (C) and Savvas Angelides

Israel, Cyrus and Greece vowed to forge deeper military ties in order to improve security and counter common threats more effectively in a challenging region.

By: AP and United with Israel Staff

Israel, Cyrus and Greece must forge deeper military ties to improve security and more effectively counter common threats in a turbulent region, the countries’ defense ministers said Friday.

Cypriot Minister Savvas Angelides and his Israeli and Greek counterparts, Avigdor Liberman and Panos Kammenos respectively, said they also seek to expand cooperation on cybersecurity, joint military drills and search-and-rescue operations in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Israeli defense minister said the threat of terror attacks and the challenges posed by illegal migration – in a region he described as “an ocean of violence” where “rogue states” operate – must be met collectively.

“It’s much better to counter regional threats together,” Liberman told a news conference. Israel will host the ministers’ next trilateral meeting, he said.

The ministers also hailed the conference as the first to bring together Cypriot, Greek and Israeli companies active in the military industry.

The Greek minister noted that a eurozone decision paving the way for Greece to end its eight-year bailout program will positively impact the country’s armed forces.

In a clear reference to Turkey, the Cypriot minister said closer defense cooperation poses no threat to any other country and helps secure the ongoing search for gas in the eastern Mediterranean.

Cyprus and Israel have discovered gas deposits off their coasts and continue searching for more. Turkey has objected to the search off Cyprus, fearing that the benefits of those findings will not be shared with Turkish Cypriots in the breakaway northern part of the ethnically divided island.

The Cypriot government says any potential hydrocarbon wealth will be equitably shared after a reunification deal is reached.

Powerful Regional Alliance

The three countries are seeking to establish a regional alliance that would serve to counter Turkey’s, as well as other countries’, potentially negative impact on the area. Greece and Cyprus are historic adversaries of Turkey.

In May, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participated in a tripartite summit with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Cyprus.

The focus of the meeting was the feasibility of a regional gas pipeline from Israel and Cyprus, via Greece, to Europe.

Greece, Italy and Cyprus, with the backing of the European Union, had joined Israel in advancing a project to build the world’s longest and deepest undersea gas pipeline.

Similar summits were held in June 2017 and in January 2016, and the leaders have also met on an individual basis.