Israeli Leader Pays Historic Visit To Cyprus

Published February 16, 2012 7:27AM (EST)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's prime minister is embarking on a historic visit to Cyprus, reflecting rapidly shifting alliances in the turbulent Middle East.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the first Israeli leader ever to visit the nearby island nation.

Netanyahu's office says Thursday's visit is designed to strengthen the "improving ties" between the two nations. It says the two sides will discuss energy matters, agriculture, health and maritime research.

Ties have long been chilly. Cyprus looked on warily as Israel built military and trade relations with Turkey, which does not recognize Cyprus as a sovereign state and occupies its north.

But Israel's relations with Turkey have deteriorated, and Cyprus is looking to cement ties with neighbors as Turkey's influence grows.

By Salon Staff

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