Cyprus, Greece, Israel to set up multi-party military force for energy security

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NICOSIA, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- Cyprus, Greece and Israel have decided to set up a multi-party military force to provide security for natural gas infrastructure, Cyprus' state television reported on Friday.

It said that the multi-party force decision was among unreported issues discussed at a summit of the three countries in Israel on Thursday.

Quoting unnamed diplomatic sources at the Beer Sheba summit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Cyprus's state television said parties involved in natural gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean will be invited to participate with military units in the force.

Among countries expected to be invited to join the force is the United States as two U.S.-based companies, ExxonMobil and Noble Energy, are involved in natural gas exploration.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman participated for the first time in the tripartite summit of Israel, Cyprus and Greece, expressing his country's support both for the regional cooperation groupings and the EastMed project.

State television reported that the main task of the force will be to protect the EastMed pipeline which will run from the eastern Mediterranean region to Italy, through Cyprus, Crete and mainland Greece.

The leaders of the three countries decided to sign an agreement for the construction of the 2,200 kilometer long pipeline at their next summit in Crete early next year, after getting approval from the European Commission for the project.

The EU has contributed 100 million euros (about 113.65 million U.S. dollars) for a feasibility study for the EastMed which it considers a major project for the energy supply of the continent.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides told state radio that the summit also decided to set up a permanent secretariat in Cyprus to take care of the business of all tripartite cooperation agreements Cyprus and Greece entered into with Israel, Egypt and Jordan.

"All these groupings will gradually be merged into a wider regional organization in the eastern Mediterranean," Christodoulides said.

He dismissed a speculation that these groupings are aimed at isolating Turkey, saying the aim of the tripartite agreements is not to isolate any country but to promote regional cooperation. Enditem

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