Israel, Cyprus mulling stationing IAF jets on island
Israeli and Cypriot officials plan to discuss allowing the Israeli Air Force to station its jets there, during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Nicosia later this month, Israeli officials said Monday, Xinhua reported.
Netanyahu's arrival would signal the first-ever such visit to the Mediterranean country, which lies some 420 kilometers to the northwest of the Israeli coast.
"The Prime Minister of Israel will come to Cyprus to emphasize the good relations between the two countries and to strengthen the bilateral relations, which are already good," an Israeli embassy official told the Cyprus Mail in January.
In September 2011, Israel asked Cyprus to permit stationing its aircraft at the Andreas Papandreou airbase in Paphos, the Cypriot OnlyCy.com website reported.
The facility is reportedly capable of supporting and hosting such arrivals, according to the DefenseGreece. Com military affairs website, who noted that the Hellenic Air Force had stationed its F-16 fighter jets there almost a decade ago.
However, the prospect "is at the exploratory stage - it's not clear if it will or won't happen," said an Israeli official, in trying to cool expectations, told Xinhua on Monday.
The official, however, allowed that such a potential offshore airbase "is an existing option, and we're investigating the possibility," but again cautioned that such an agreement "isn't totally sewn up."
DefenseGreece.com termed the proposal "a significant upgrade of military relations between Israel and Cyprus," and one that "would change the military balance in Cyprus."
In January, Israel and Cyprus signed two defense agreements which Cypriot Minister of Defense Demetris Eliades said "sets the basis for the further development of relations in the area of defense cooperation."
Eliades, who signed the deal with Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak, touted the visit as "historic and very important for the development of the two countries' relations," AsiaNews said.
Eliades added that the massive natural gas reserves found in both Cyprus and Israel's economic zones "opened a new chapter in relations between the two countries," according to the Israeli Globes business news site.