Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly suggested creating a 20,000-strong military presence in Cyprus to protect oil and gas interests on the island, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported Sunday.
According to the report by the Anatolia news agency, Netanyahu met with Greek Cypriot leader Demetrius Christofias in February and offered to assume all construction expenses for a gas extraction plant. In exchange, Israelis would be contracted for all 10,000 positions necessary to man the facility. The employees’ families would also live on the Greek part of the island.
The 20,000 soldiers were recommended to safeguard the civilian workforce and family members, according to a source close to the Greek Cypriot government. The soldiers would be stationed in Limassol, the report said.
Christofias reportedly also asked Netanyahu to convince Israeli business leaders to halt all Israeli investment in Turkish Cyprus.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Office had no comment on the report. The Foreign Ministry could not be reached for comment.
Turkey has controlled the northern part of the Mediterranean island since 1974, though their sovereignty is not recognized by any other country.
Several companies from Israel and around the world have reportedly invested in a tender to develop a gas field off Cyprus, a move which has angered Turkey. On Friday, Ankara threatened to ban companies investing in the field from Turkish energy projects.
In February the Famagusta Gazette reported that Israel would be asking the Cypriot government for permission to create an air base on the island.