The Anatolia news agency reported yesterday (20 May) that Israel allegedly discussed with the Greek Cypriot authorities plans to deploy 20,000 commandos to Cyprus. The reason given for the deployment is the potential security risk to the large number of Israeli engineers working at the planned natural gas plant.
The report suggests the commandos would be based in Limassol; however, the report is from the Turkish Anatolia news agency and has yet to be corroborated. The recent discovery of large hydrocarbon reserves in the Cypriot and Israeli exclusive economic zones (EEZs) has raised tensions in the region. Since reunification talks between the Greek Cypriot authorities and the internationally unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) broke down, the pace of hydrocarbon exploration in the Cypriot EEZ has increased. Concurrently, Cypriot-Israeli relations have warmed, which led the two countries to sign a defence co-operation agreement in January (seeCyprus - Israel: 10 January 2012:). The TRNC, which is largely financially and militarily dependent on Turkey, retaliated by issuing onshore exploration licences (seeTurkey - Cyprus: 27 April 2012:). The TRNC has called for all hydrocarbon exploration to be halted until an agreement is reached on the fair distribution of the island's future energy revenues. This has been ignored by the Greek Cypriot authorities, which have proceeded with issuing exploration licences and engaging with energy companies.
Significance:The report by the Turkish Anatolia news agency has yet to be confirmed by the Israeli or Cypriot governments and therefore cannot be seen as conclusive. If the report does in fact turn out to be correct, however, the plan will be seen as a highly provocative move by both Cyprus and Israel, and one that is likely lead to retaliatory action by Turkey. In this case, the probability of military conflict, which remains low presently, would increase notably. There is, however, a strong chance that it is not based on credible evidence and may even be a deliberate move to stir up concern within the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the Turkish audience over security on the island.
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