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Israel to build surveillance system on border dividing Cyprus

An aerial photo shows drill ships in the west of the Island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea on July 11, 2019. [Turkish National Defence Ministry/ Handout - Anadolu Agency]

Israel will build a surveillance system across the island of Cyprus, in a new deal signed with Southern Cyprus to help secure its border dividing the island.

Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, Cypriot Defence Ministry spokesperson Christos Pieris revealed that Israel will build "an electronic surveillance system that will provide us with images 24 hours a day." He added that "it will be installed at various points on the Green Line" which separates the Turkish Cypriot north of the island from the Greek Cypriot south.

Under that deal signed between Tel Aviv and Nicosia, the system will take three years to complete and will cost a total of 27.5 million euros ($32 million). The purpose of the surveillance system is reportedly to help crack down on smuggling and illegal immigration into southern Cyprus, which is a European Union member state.

Since Turkey's military intervention and invasion of the north of Cyprus in 1974, the 180-kilometre Green Line has divided the island and continues to do so to this day.

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Over the past decade, informal immigration has particularly been an issue, with both the north and the south feeling the effects of asylum seekers and refugees from Syria who have fled to the Mediterranean island. More recently, many Lebanese have also attempted to cross over to the island in search for a better life.

In May this year, Southern Cyprus declared that it is in a "state of emergency" due to the refugee crisis. Last month, its Interior Minister also complained to the EU Asylum Support Office conference in Malta that 800 migrants recently crossed the green line within a 10-day period, insisting that Nicosia was "obliged to take significant and drastic" steps.

The deal between Israel and the Republic of Cyprus comes amid heightened cooperation between the two countries in recent years, along with their cooperation with Greece and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

READ: Cyprus extends custody of suspect Israel says was Iran 'hit man'

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