JERUSALEM, Israel -- Turkey expressed its deep dissatisfaction over warming ties between Israel and Cyprus, one day before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's historic visit to the island Thursday.
Turkey's Foreign Ministry warned Wednesday it would "take all necessary measures to protect its rights and interests" of recently discovered natural gas deposits off the coast of Cyprus, dismissing any Israeli-Cypriot deal demarking the maritime borders, The Associated Press reported.
The one-day trip, which aimed to "further strengthen bilateral relations between the two nations," marked the first-ever visit to the island by an Israeli prime minister.
Netanyahu was accompanied by his wife, Sara, and a delegation of senior officials, including Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau.
Turkey's threats did not deter Netanyahu from pursuing what he calls "natural ties" between the two countries.
"I came here to develop our bilateral ties, our economic ties and ties in the field of energy," Netanyahu said after meeting with Cypriot President Demetris Christofias.
"We're interested in developing peaceful relations for the benefit of our two countries and the region as a whole," he said. He added that Israel had no "hidden or ulterior motives."
Topping the agenda was the development of the island's extensive off-shore natural gas deposits, including the possibility of a joint pipeline to export gas to Europe and Asia.
That discussion prompted a sharp rebuke by Turkey, which has occupied the northern part of the island since 1974.
In September, when the Houston-based company, Noble Energy Inc., began exploratory drilling off the coast of Cyprus, Turkey dispatched three warships to the area to underscore its intentions to drill there too.
Three months later, President Christofias welcomed the discovery of a large natural gas deposit, as much as 8 trillion cubic feet, off its coast.
"The gas discovery in the exclusive economic zone of our country creates great prospects for Cyprus and its people," Christofias told reporters in late December.
"Cyprus is coming into Europe's energy map with prospects of substantially contributing to the E.U.'s energy security," he added.
Last June, Nobel Energy Inc. discovered an immense natural gas deposit off the coast of Israel's northern port city of Haifa. Lebanon, like Turkey, is claiming that parts of the Israeli gas fields lie in its waters.