Peres: Offshore gas no cause for tension
NICOSIA / DUBLIN
Israeli President Peres shake hands with Cypriot President Christofias while departing from Presidental Palace in Nicosia. REUTERS photoOffshore gas finds in the eastern Mediterranean should not cause tension with Turkey, the Israeli president said yesterday, adding that any resources extracted by Israel and Greek Cyprus should go toward improving people’s lives and not be used as political leverage.
“We look upon gas not as power, but as an occasion to better the life of the people and not to try to win strength to threaten other people,” Israeli President Shimon Peres said after talks with Greek Cypriot President Demetris Christofias. “We are not going to threaten anybody and we’re not going to be afraid of threats. What we have to do is bring matters to the international level and behave like responsible countries.” Turkey opposes exploratory drilling being conducted by U.S. company Noble Energy off Cyprus’ south coast near Leviathan, a massive Israeli gas find estimated to contain 16 trillion cubic feet of gas. Also yesterday, Greek Cyprus and Israel signed four agreements on renewable energy, archaeology, industrial research and telecommunications.
No Turks on new Gaza boats
Meanwhile, pro-Palestinian activists set sail for the Gaza Strip from Turkey aboard two yachts on Nov. 2; the Israeli military immediately said it would not permit them to breach its blockade of the Islamist-ruled territory. The 27 activists on board the Canadian and Irish vessels came from Australia, Canada, Ireland and the United States and included Palestinians and at least one Arab-Israeli citizen.
In June they were blocked from setting sail from Greece. Israeli military officials said they were tracking the boats and would bar them from reaching Gaza to enforce a blockade Israel regards as necessary to prevent weapons from being smuggled to gunmen in the enclave. In May 2010, Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara aid vessel to enforce the Gaza blockade and clashed with activists. Nine Turks were killed in the incident. Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, a military spokeswoman, would not say how the boats might be stopped. “We will have to assess and see if we are facing violent passengers,” Leibovich told reporters by telephone, adding that Israel saw the flotilla as a “provocation.”
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selçuk Ünal said Nov. 2 that there were no Turkish citizens on board the two ships. When asked whether a two-ship aid flotilla departed from Turkey for Gaza, Ünal said two ships departed from Fethiye in the southwestern province of Muğla yesterday and that both ships had declared their destination as Rhodes. Ünal also said the ships’ captains were Greek citizens.