Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara on Wednesday hosted the leaders of Greece and Cyprus and their partners for dinner ahead of a summit meeting of the Eastern Mediterranean leaders.
Greek Prime Minister Tsipras and his partner Peristera Baziana and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and his wife Andri Moustakoudi were guests at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem.
On Thursday, Netanyahu will host the fifth Israel-Greece-Cyprus summit, which will focus on cyber and innovation. The visiting leaders will tour tour the National Cyber Directorate and an innovation exhibition by Israeli companies.
The meeting seeks to build on the already strong three-way ties and the ambitious project to build a gas pipeline linking the three countries.
“We want to lay a gas pipeline from Israel to Cyprus, Crete, [mainland] Greece, Italy and [the rest of] Europe,” Netanyahu said at a business conference earlier Wednesday.
“This will turn Israel into a player in the global energy field; all signs indicate that it could run forward. This will, of course, strengthen our diplomatic capability which, to the same extent, of course, is also strengthening the economy and the military, because they are all related,” he said.
The leaders will also hold bilateral meetings, sign agreements on cyber defense, civilian space-related issues and meteorological cooperation.
The proposed EastMed Pipeline Project would start about 170 kilometers (105 miles) off Cyprus’s southern coast and stretch for 2,200 kilometers (1,350 miles) to reach Otranto, Italy, via Crete and the Greek mainland.
The so-called EastMed Pipeline Project will have the capacity to carry up to 20 billion cubic meters (706 billion cubic feet) of gas yearly. Europe’s gas import needs are projected to increase by 100 billion cubic meters (3.5 billion cubic feet) annually by 2030.
Last year, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said a study on the EastMed Pipeline Project showed that the link is feasible, even though it presents technical challenges due to the depths involved. He told The Associated Press the estimated 6.2 billion euro ($7.36 billion) pipeline could take 6-7 years to build and that the countries involved “are serious about it.”
There is also a planned undersea electricity and fiber optic cables that will link the three countries.
Once frosty, Israel’s ties with Greece and Cyprus have markedly improved in recent years, coinciding with a spat between Israel and regional rival Turkey.
The three countries now hold frequent joint military and civil protection exercises, including joint air force drill that will include Cyprus, Israel, Egypt, and other European countries as part of efforts to bolster stability in the eastern Mediterranean.
AP contributed to this report