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Cyprus Pitches Regional Firefighting Hub to Israel, Greece

NICOSIA — Cyprus’ foreign minister pitched to his Greek and Israeli counterparts on Monday the creation of an east Mediterranean firefighting hub aimed at quickly addressing huge summer wildfires that could overwhelm any single country.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides made the proposal during a virtual meeting of the three countries’ top diplomats as well as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, aimed at closer cooperation on energy, the economy, climate action, emergency preparedness and counterterrorism.

Kasoulides also said his island nation is willing to host a gathering of ministers to discuss ways of protecting the east Mediterranean Sea through the development of environmentally friendly ports and other coastline infrastructure.

Cyprus, Greece and Israel have often assisted each other in recent years by sending firefighting teams, gear and aircraft to help combat massive wildfires. The Cypriot proposal would seek to streamline and speed up the dispatching of such assistance.

Blinken joined Kasoulides, and their Greek and Israeli counterparts, Nikos Dendias and Yair Lapid, to demonstrate Washington’s support for the three-way cooperation pact that Cyprus, Greece and Israel have developed over recent years.

In a joint statement, the ministers said they had decided to intensify cooperation on issues “contributing to resilience, energy security and interconnectivity in the region.”

They agreed to meet again before the end of 2022.

Cyprus, Greece and Israel have worked for the last six years to strengthen ties based on new gas deposits in Cypriot and Israeli waters, and want to explore ways of getting those hydrocarbons to European markets as a potential alternative to Russian gas.

Additionally, the European Union agreed earlier this year to earmark 657 million euros ($687 million) for the construction of a 2,000-megawatt undersea electricity cable that will link the three countries’ power grids.

Officials said that with the completion of the cable dubbed “Eurasia Interconnector,” it’s expected that more investment will flow into renewable sources enhancing the energy mix of Greece, Cyprus and Israel.

An earlier idea for a gas pipeline link appears to have fallen out of favor amid question marks over its cost and environmental impact.

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