Israel has denied a report by Turkish media that it plans to deploy 20,000 soldiers and commandos to Greek Cyprus in order to protect its energy projects there.
In a written statement, the Israeli foreign ministry declared that the claims by the Anatolia news agency were baseless and disconnected from reality.
Israel has never sent troops to any other country in its history, the statement added.
The report by Anatolia suggested that the Israelis wanted its own citizens to operate energy projects in Cyprus and seeks to protect them militarily. It was also claimed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Greek Cypriot counterpart, Demetris Christofias, discussed these projects and other issues during their meeting in mid-February.
The Turkish news agency also alleged that Christofias asked Netanyahu to urge Israeli businessmen to cease making investments in the Turkish-ruled northern part of Cyprus.
In addition, Netanyahu supposedly offered to assume all expenses related to the construction of a gas plant in Cyprus in exchange for the right to have Israel send 10,000 people to work at the facility (which would thereby increase the number of Israelis on the island to 30,000, necessitating a large security force to protect them).
A source in the Greek Cypriot city of Limassol told Anatolia: The Israelis who come, settle here for good.”
Turkey, which does not recognize the Greek-controlled Republic of Cyprus, is extremely wary of any Israeli designs on the island.
Now that huge offshore natural gas deposits have been discovered beneath the sea off Cyprus, the Israelis and Greek Cypriots have deepened their economic ties.
Turkey was upset when oil and gas drilling commenced off the coast of Cyprus last year, citing that such activity violates the right of Turkish Cypriots to the same resources. Turkey has also commenced oil drilling in Cyprus.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.