It is unknown if the plans include a permanent military presence on the island, with a full time deployment of airmen – but it is understood the matter will be discussed when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits later this month, becoming the country’s first premier to visit the island.
According to the Chinese state-run Xinhua news agency, the prospect “is at the exploratory stage – it’s not clear if it will or won’t happen,” an Israeli official told the agency.
The official, however, allowed that such a potential offshore airbase “is an existing option, and we’re investigating the possibility,” but again cautioned that such an agreement “isn’t totally sewn up.”
Rumours that Israel had requested use of the base have been circulating for several months, and the request is understood to have been discussed at a recent meeting between the Cypriot Minister of defense and his Israeli counterpart.
WARMING TIES WITH TURKEY
However, as ties with Cyprus strengthen, Tel Aviv is also slowly repairing its relationship with Ankara.
Last month an air force coordination mechanism is installed in order to prevent misunderstandings and potential clashes between Turkish and Israeli military planes patrolling over the Mediterranean Sea was reactivated after it was suspended following the May 31, 2010 raid on the humanitarian aid ship Mavi Marmara.
An unnamed senior official of the Israeli Air Force stated that this coordination mechanism was reactivated as part of the two countries’ efforts to “stabilize and improve ties.” In December, the Turkish military attache to Israel attended an Israeli Air Force briefing for foreign military officers at the Ovda Air Force Base on the sidelines of the Israeli joint maneuvers with the Italian Air Force.
The official also stated that the Israeli Air Force would also likely invite Turkey to participate in a large-scale international aerial drill that it will be hosting in Israel in 2013. “There is nothing preventing Turkey from participating,” the official said.