Up until 2020, Israel-Cyprus military relations were limited, but with the US lifting its arms embargo on Cyprus and the plan of a gas pipeline from Israel to Europe through Cyprus, the relations between the countries are growing. Israel and Cyprus hold close economic, security and military relations with significant arms and security deals being signed between 2015-2022.
Israel – Cyprus Relations
In early years, while Israel was closely aligned with Turkey, and with the ongoing Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus, Israel-Cyprus relations were relatively limited. Cyprus also clearly aligned itself with the Palestinian cause for liberation throughout the 80’s. While diplomatic relations were established between the two countries, it was only in 1993 that bi-lateral agreements between the countries started to be signed.
The substantial shift came in 2009-2010, with the deuteriation of the Israeli-Turkish relations, and increased gas drilling in the Mediterranean. In 2010, an exclusive economic zone was set within the territorial waters between Israel and Cyprus at the maritime halfway point, to allow drilling for underwater oil. In 2012 was the first visit of an Israeli head of state to Cyprus with a visit by Prime minister Netanyahu. In 2017, Israel, Cyprus, Greece and Italy signed an agreement to advance a 7 billion USD plan for the Euro-Med gas pipeline, making Israel and Cyprus closer allies than ever.Israel, Cyprus, Greece and Italy agree on $7b. EastMed gas pipeline to Europe/
In April 2021 the foreign ministers of Israel, Cyprus, Greece and the United Arab Emirates hold a meeting of a new regional strategic forum to discuss potential cooperation. The meeting was hold in Paphos, Cyprus, and the ministers spoke among others about economic and security issues.
In 2022 the EU announced it will fund the construction of a 2,000 megawatt undersea electricity cable that will link the power grids of Israel, Cyprus and Greece.EU to fund construction of Israel, Cyprus, Greece electricity cable link
In 1987 the US decided on an arms prohibition designed to “restrict United States arms sales and transfers to the Republic of Cyprus and the occupied part of Cyprus to avoid hindering reunification efforts”One Hundred Sixteenth Congress of the United States of America . While Israel did not have a similar arms prohibition on Cyprus, it would seem that the US policy, alongside Israel’s close military relations to Turkey throughout the years, have kept Cyprus from being a major recipient of Israeli arms. In the 2000’s Cyprus purchased Israeli drones and battle ships.
However, in 2019, with the development of the Euro-Med gas pipeline project that is a cooperation of Greece, Cyprus, and Israel with support from the US and EU, this is slowly changing. The US prohibition of arms sales was lifted with the “Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019”, that promised the US would “actively participate in the trilateral dialogue on energy, maritime security, cybersecurity and protection of critical infrastructure conducted among Israel, Greece, and Cyprus”.One Hundred Sixteenth Congress of the United States of America
In November 2020, in a meeting between their ministers of defense, Israel, Greece and Cyprus officially agreed to boost defense cooperation.Israel, Greece and Cyprus agree to boost defense cooperation/
In March 2022 the Chief of Staff of the Army of Cyprus made an official visit to Israel. He met his Israeli counterpart and visited the Israel-Lebanon border and an Iron-Dome base.Cyprus Chief of Staff made first visit to Israel
In June 2022 Israel and Cyprus’ Ministries of Defense signed multiple GTG agreements, which include the sale of personal protective equipment and tactical carrying systems for the use of the Cypriot National Guard. The agreements will provide integrated soldier systems developed by “Source”, which include personal protective equipment, carrying equipment, and dynamic weight distribution (DWD), which will significantly improve soldier effectiveness. It was also agreed that specially designed carrying systems, which include the TPP duty belt, developed by “Marom Dolphin”, would be provided.Israel, Cyprus sign defense export agreements
In 2022 it was reported that Cyprus is in negotiations with Israel about the purchase of Iron Dome Air-Defense Systems.Zypern setzt auf Iron Dome The Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported that an Cypriot official confirmed that a final agreement on the deal has been inked but they have not publicly anounced the deal and delivery yet.Cyprus concludes deal to purchase Iron Dome Cyprus set to buy Iron Dome from Israel — report/
June 2022 – Israeli Army runs massive drill in Cyprus. The Israeli Military simulated transporting thousands of troops by air and sea.Israel Defense Forces carries out drills on Cyprus simulating Lebanon In Cyprus, IDF runs drills for potential war with Hezbollah, Lebanon ground assault/
May 2022 – Israel joined multi-national rescue drill in Cyprus.Israel joins 6 other countries in Cyprus to drill evacuations from conflict zones/
March 2022 – Israeli Military conducted joint Naval drill (“Noble Dina”) with Cyprus, Greece, France and the US near the coast of Cyprus. The Israeli delegation included Sa’ar 5 and Sa’ar 4.5 corvettes, missile boats and submarines.IDF wraps up naval drill with Greece, France, Cyprus and US
2021 – Israeli joined a multi-national security exercise for Cypriot oil rigs.Israel joins 8-nation security drill for Cypriot oil rigs
2019 – Israel and Cyprus hold joint Air Force exercise in Cyprus, together with British Royal Air Force.Israel, Cyprus Hold Joint Air Force Exercise
2017 – an extensive Israeli military drill was held in Cyprus, involving air and ground forces from both countries.Israeli Troops Head to Cyprus for Joint Exercise
2015 – Israel and Cyprus hold two joint Air Force exercises in Cyprus.IAF Training in Cyprus
In 2021 Israel’s military signed a deal with Cyprus to build a new electronic surveillance system along the country’s demilitarized border with northern Cyprus. The 27.5 million euro ($31.8 million) system will provide 24-hour video surveillance.Israel to export border surveillance technology to Cyprus
In 2016 the Israeli Embassy in Cyprus and the Israeli company Check Point Software Technologies organized an event in Nikosia about the “National Cyber Security Authority in Israel”.Israel in Cyprus : Establishing a National Cyber Security Authority
In 2021 Eviatar Matania. who is a founding head and former director general of the Israel National Cyber Directorate, a member of Tel Aviv University’s Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center, said in an interview: “When Israel signs a cyber-defense alliance with Cyprus and Greece, it does not necessarily need Cyprus or Greece to upgrade its cyber defense – but in return we get payback in other areas,”How Israel became the world’s cyber powerhouse
The Israeli AI-company Corsight is partnering with Olvitech Corperation that operates in Europe, Russia, and CIS and has an office in Cyprus.Olvitech Corsight Face Detection and Recognition Systems
Tal Dilian and WiSpear/Passitoria, Circles, NSO Group, Intellexa and Cytrox
In 2021 the office of the Commissioner for Personal Data Protection in Cyprus has collected a $1 million fine from the Israeli intelligence company WiSpear for gathering mobile data from various individuals arriving at the airport in Larnaca, Cyprus in 2019.Surveillance firm pays $1 million fine after ‘spy van’ scandal The CEO of WiSpear (renamed Passitora Ltd.) is Tal Dilian, a former officer in the Israeli Army, an original co-owner of the Israeli company “Circles”.NSO Group Closes Cyprus Office of Spy Firm Circles, that merged with NSO, had also offices in Cyprus till 2020.NSO Group Closes Cyprus Office of Spy Firm
In 2022 the European Parliament has demanded an explanation on the presence of Israeli spyware companies in the Greek-Cypriot administration. The company in the spotlight is Intellexa, run by Tal Dilian, that sells the Predator spyware, most recently involved in a surveillance scandal in Greece that led to the resignation of the country’s intelligence chief. European lawmakers press for facts on Israeli spyware firms in Greek Cypriot administration
NSO Group representatives have previously said that they’ve been granted export licenses for their tech from Cyprus and Bulgaria.Pegasus makers face EU grilling. Here’s what to ask them
According to a forensic report by CitizensLab, the spyware Predator, similar to Pegasus was initially developed by the North Macedonian company Cytrox and is reportedly now owned by the Cyprus based company, WiSpear, that was renamed Passitora Ltd .Pegasus Committee Report for the EU – Pegasus and Surveillance Spyware
Usage of Israeli Arms
Aerostar UAV – The Aerostar drones were bought to monitor and surveil the sea border with Turkey.
IAI Searcher UAV – in use by Cyprus Air Force.
Tavor Assault Rifles – In January 2021, Cypriot paratroopers were spotted using Israeli assault rifles during training.Cypriot paratroopers use Israeli weapons
IWI Negev Machine Guns – In use by Cypriot Infantry and Paratroopers.Cypriot paratroopers use Israeli weapons
40mm Grenade Launchers – In use by Cypriot Infantry and Paratroopers.Cypriot paratroopers use Israeli weapons
Human Rights Violations
Cyprus continued to have the highest number of registered first-time asylum applicants per capita in the European Union, but with a backlog of over 16,000 cases, while waiting for asylum, refugees are kept in the refugee camp of Kofinou, an isolated camp between Larnaca and Limassol. The conditions in the camp include cockroaches, and dirty facilities, though Cyprus hosts very few refugees de-facto.
Cyprus still has mandatory military service, with punitive measures against those refusing to serve in the military.