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Ed Webb

The Eastern Mediterranean in 2023: Escalation or Resolution? | Majalla - 0 views

  • The Eastern Mediterranean has been stuck in an infinite loop of unilateral sovereign decisions on maritime demarcations by the countries on three of its coastlines since the early discoveries of the massive hydrocarbon wealth in the seabed about two decades ago. The domestic political troubles in most Eastern Mediterranean countries, the uneven geo-political intricacies of the region, and the long-term conflicts between the neighboring countries have added extra layers of complications to the growing tensions over maritime rights.
  • geo-economic threats posed by these conflicts have generated unexpected collaborations between the southern countries of the Eastern Mediterranean. Prominent examples include the recent Israel-Lebanon maritime border deal and the five years of cooperation between Egypt and Israel on extracting, liquifying, and exporting natural gas to Europe
  • unresolved long-term conflicts between Turkey and Greece are still setting the region on fire
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  • The Greek Island Kastellorizo, where most of the Greek military buildup has been happening since early 2022, is 600 kilometers away from Greece’s mainland, while it is only 1950 meters away from Turkey.
  • two new bilateral agreements. One agreement allows Libya’s interim Government of National Unity (GNU) to receive advanced weapons, including drones, from Turkey. The other memorandum admits Turkey to the Libyan waters in the Mediterranean for hydrocarbon exploration purposes. In a provocative response to Greece’s and Egypt’s objection to these memoranda, the Libyan and the Turkish officials plainly said they “do not care for what third parties think about our bilateral agreements.”
  • Greece’s decision has obviously angered Turkey and Libya, which will be directly affected. Yet, Greece’s unilateral move has also been frowned upon by Egypt, which has been a strong ally to Greece against Turkey
  • repeated threats by Turkish officials have not prevented Greece from announcing in late December its intention to unilaterally extend its maritime zone to a point twelve nautical miles southwest of Crete
  • it is not expected that Egypt and Greece would clash over these uncoordinated demarcations. However, such moves may overturn or completely invalidate their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) agreement, which they signed in August 2020 to rescind the maritime agreement signed between Turkey and the former Libyan interim Government of National Accord (GNA) in December 2019. In other words, this is not serving Greece’s goal to curb Turkey’s advances to use the Libyan maritime zone to conduct seismic research for hydrocarbon resources. That is particularly true in light of the improvement of Turkey-Egypt relations following a historic handshake between the Egyptian and Turkish presidents in Doha in early December. It does not seem that Egypt is planning to end its EEZ agreement with Greece, but it reserves the right to sign similar agreements with Turkey in the future.
  • Turkey called for open negotiations with all involved parties in the Eastern Mediterranean. In the past year, Ankara led a successful campaign to mend broken ties with all its neighbors in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean, including Egypt, Israel, and Syria. Turkey’s renewed relations with neighboring countries, in addition to Turkey’s mediator role in the Russia-Ukraine crisis, have dramatically improved Turkey’s situation in the Eastern Mediterranean
  • Libya is just another victim of an unfair agreement signed over a century ago in the fog of world wars. Rather than bringing peace, the Lausanne Agreement (1922) has left the Eastern Mediterranean with a chronic conflict over a messy geographic ordeal that the successive regional leaders have failed to resolve. The agreement preserved Turkish sovereignty over Turkey’s mainland but inelegantly stripped Turkey of its rights in the seabed resources of the Mediterranean, despite being the country with the longest border (1870 km) in the hydrocarbon-rich sea.
  • According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles (370 km) may be claimed by coastal countries. If the distance between the shores of two neighboring countries is less than this space, the maritime demarcation between them should be drawn exactly at the half-line distance. However, this is not the case for Turkey, which is literally cuffed to its own shores, either in the southern area towards Cyprus or the southwest zone towards Greece, because Lausanne Agreement gave all the small islands in the Aegean and Mediterranean to Greece.
  • In the summer of 2020, the quiet basin of the Eastern Mediterranean witnessed an unprecedented number of military encounters disguised as joint aero-naval military exercises, wherein advanced fighter jets and navy arsenals from outside the region intervened. In 2023, these conflicts have a high potential to be re-ignited if they are not preceded by pragmatic negotiations wherein all the concerned parties on the three shores of the Eastern Mediterranean are involved.
Ed Webb

Italian Fishermen, Caught Amid EU Migrant Politics, Are Being Captured in Libya - 1 views

  • The 180-mile stretch of the Mediterranean sea that separates Sicily from Libya has been a diplomatic battleground in Italian-Libyan relations for years
  • allowed Libya to quietly claim a bigger portion of the Mediterranean: a controversial move that has put the lives and livelihoods of Italian fishermen at greater risk for almost a decade
  • Libyans have continued to treat foreign fishing in that 74-mile stretch as a territorial invasion—and as a theft of their natural resources, to be punished through detention and bail payment
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  • The maritime dispute dates back to the 1970s, when Libya began using force to protect its self-proclaimed fishing waters off the Gulf of Sidra from foreign fishing vessels, 12 miles from its coast. But it worsened in 2005, when then-Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi unilaterally extended the country’s waters from 12 to 74 miles offshore. Those claims were always formally rejected by main EU member states, and according to Stefano Marcuzzi, a Libya analyst at the NATO Defense College Foundation in Rome, many maritime law experts still consider them illegitimate. “Territorial waters can be extended up to 74 miles, according to the 1982 Montego Bay Convention, but that refers to oceans,” Marcuzzi said. “The extension of that principle to the closed waters of the Mediterranean basin is debatable.”
  • The EU has kept prioritizing migration containment by signing agreements with Libya’s coast guard, which is part of Tripoli’s navy, over proper nation-building and regional-stabilization policies—with mixed results
  • about 40 fishermen have been injured and detained in the past 25 years. More than 50 boats have been seized, and the release of each one has cost up to 50,000 euros, a price usually paid by the fishermen themselves.  
  • since civil war broke out in Libya in 2011, Italy and the EU have lost much of their influence in the country.
  • “Our families’ income has depended on fishing for generations. Despite the risks, we have no choice but to keep sailing these troubled waters, because that’s where red prawns live,” said Asaro, who was among the first Sicilian fishermen to experience detention—and a show trial—in Libya. In 1996, around 50 miles off the coast of the city of Misrata, the Libyan coast guard chased Asaro’s vessel for four hours before they began shooting at his crew, who were then jailed in Libya for six months. He’s since been detained twice more, most recently in 2012, near Benghazi, when he was released after eight days on an 8,000-euro bail he paid out of his own pocket.
  • The EU’s inability to see Libya outside the lens of migration has also allowed the country to take control of a bigger portion of the Mediterranean
  • allowing Libyans to assert larger maritime sovereignty has allowed them the opportunity to advance claims over natural resources, such as in the fishing dispute, and given them a base for potential military and trade movements deeper in the Mediterranean Sea
  • Since Rome and Tripoli signed an EU-backed agreement in 2017 to curb migrant flows across the Mediterranean, vessels from the EU have been barred from operating in the 74 miles off the Libyan coast, and Italy has been helping to train and equip the Libyan coast guard—one of the groups that has been detaining its own fishermen
  • “Before 2011, the Italian navy supported us. Now as soon as we are 50 miles from the Libyan coasts, they also tell us to leave. It seems as if they prefer to leave us with a smaller piece of sea to fish rather than irritating Libyans, who could then retaliate through migration deals,” said Roberto Figuccia, another fisherman from Mazara del Vallo who’s been captured by the Libyan coast guard and detained in Libya twice, in 2015 and 2018.
  • the Italian government’s inability to negotiate a fishing agreement with Libya has led Italian captains to forge their own ties with Haftar
  • “If the Mediterranean has become a battleground, it is not only because of migrants,” said Asaro, who recently ran—and lost—in local elections with the Lega party, which is known for its far-right and anti-EU rhetoric. He believes that Lega, unlike Italy’s other political parties, would stand up for Italian citizens’ rights over EU agreements. “I no longer feel as a European citizen. The EU has left us alone.”
Ed Webb

Is US redesigning southern flank? - 0 views

  • In parallel with Turkey’s growing defense and security rapprochement with Russia, the United States is forging closer military bonds with Greece, heralding shifts in geostrategic balances in the Balkans, the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediterranean
  • Pompeo and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias inked a protocol expanding the scope of the US-Greece Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement, which relates to the use of Greek military facilities by US forces
  • The transfer of US military technologies to Greece in the fields of drones, smart munitions and army aviation; A more active use by the US Navy, including submarines, and the US Air Force of the military port and airbase at Souda Bay on the island of Crete, which is considered a gateway to the eastern Mediterranean;
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  • The establishment of military facilities at the port of Alexandroupolis, which allows control over the northern Aegean, dominates Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula and eastern Thrace region and is very close to the Turkish border, and opening them to the use of the US Navy;
  • Augmenting the fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones, which are already operating out of Larissa, located halfway down Greece’s eastern side near the Aegean coast, and stationing KC-135 tankers there;
  • Enabling the Greek military to access intelligence gathered by the Reapers and through other means and establishing a mechanism for further military intelligence sharing;
  • Pilotage, maintenance and operational training at the Stefanovikeio airbase near the Aegean for the seven MH-60R Seahawk helicopters that the United has recently agreed to supply to Greece. 
  • the United States is seeking to turn up pressure on Russia in the Balkans, the Black and Aegean seas and the eastern Mediterranean and create an anti-access area-denial shield, centered in Greece, to limit Russia’s access to warm waters
  • Pompeo’s visits to North Macedonia and Montenegro, in addition to Greece, were significant in this context. Pompeo’s tour was important also in terms of controlling China’s growing infrastructure and technology investments in the Balkans
  • the strategy of containing Russian access to warm waters through the Turkish Straits and the Black Sea has become meaningless, giving way to a new strategy of containing Russia through an anti-access area-denial shield in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean
  • the United States is seeking to counterbalance the geostrategic superiority that Russia has attained in the eastern Mediterranean in the past four years
  • Tensions in the region have grown over hydrocarbon reserves, with Greece, the Greek Cypriots, Israel and Egypt forming a bloc against Turkey
  • the US Air Force’s increasing presence in Larissa, from where Greece controls all its air operations in the Aegean, appears to reflect an American effort for a closer monitoring of the Aegean, where Turkey and Greece are embroiled in long-standing territorial disputes. 
  • Many in the anti-US camp in Ankara, which now has the upper hand, believe that the US military has been taking gradual yet decisive steps to encircle Turkey in the Aegean by strengthening its presence in the region through the bases provided by Greece
  • What needs to be done to break the siege “is to give the United States a diplomatic note and a short time to leave the eastern bank of the Euphrates [in Syria] and launch an operation afterwards,” Dilek wrote in an Oct. 5 article, days before Turkey did launch a military offensive in the said region.
  • For Atlanticists, a breed near extinction in Ankara, however, the visible increase in US military cooperation with Greece stems from Turkey’s misguided strategic choices in recent years and shows that Washington has given up hope on Ankara, leaving Turkey to Russia and trying to build a new axis with Greece to contain Russia in the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean and curb China's trade surge in the region.
  • A retired Turkish ambassador, known as an Atlanticist, told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “For two centuries, Russia has been seeking to overcome Turkey and the Straits to reach the warm waters and attain a lasting military presence in the Mediterranean basin. Because of Ankara’s mistaken diplomatic choices and ill-conceived policies in Syria, Russia in the past five years has managed to secure access to the warm waters — something it has been trying to do since Ottoman times — and establish a lasting military presence in Syria. We have to adjust to the grim reality of having Russia as a neighbor in Syria. The United States, too, appears to have found the way to attain a lasting presence by enhancing cooperation with Greece. With the big powers moving their rivalry to our region, the existing problems will become more complicated.”
  • the crisis of confidence between Turkey and the United States is becoming increasingly ossified, shaping the strategic choices and geostrategic orientations of the two sides
Ed Webb

How the Suez Canal will continue to change Mediterranean Sea - 0 views

  • Since the opening of the Suez Canal, the renowned waterway connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, its environmental impact has been a matter of concern, with the arrival of nonindigenous species from other regions. Since the official inauguration 150 years ago, the number of species that have arrived through the canal — known as Lessepsian or Erythrean species — is estimated to exceed 400, according to different studies. This is a substantial migration that some observers warn is causing the most significant biogeographic change currently underway worldwide.
  • “This has caused a substantial change in the traffic [food] webs of the Eastern Mediterranean, and such kind of life chain change has not been observed anywhere else in the world.”
  • Even if the introduction of Erythrean species started as soon as the canal opened, only a few established in the Mediterranean back then. It has only been in the last decades that the process has skyrocketed, and the number of alien species in the Mediterranean — not only Lessepsian — more than doubled between 1970 and 2015, bringing a new sense of urgency.
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  • acceleration has been facilitated by a Mediterranean Sea that is now more welcoming for alien species in terms of temperature and salinity. But also because the possibilities to arrive are higher due to the successive enlargements of the Suez Canal since its inauguration and the increase of maritime transport and aquafarming
  • Until now, there has not been any basin-wide extinction of indigenous marine species recorded in the Mediterranean, but there are cases of local disappearances and gross reductions in numbers. This has been particularly the case in its eastern basin, where the ratio of alien to native species is the highest.
  • there are nine species recorded that pose human health hazards, all of which are considered to have arrived through the Suez Canal. Their presence is particularly high in the Levant, but a lethally poisonous pufferfish has been found as far as in Spain. In the summer of 2009, one of these species caused 815 documented hospitalizations along the southeastern coast of Turkey,
  • “The major changes are in the shelf water, where artisanal [fishermen] used to fish. … So you are not only changing the economy in [quantity] but depriving people’s livelihood,”
  • “Egypt is now building huge desalinating plants near the canal and their outflow is high salinity affluent, which should be used in the Bitter Lakes [in the center of the Suez Canal] to reintroduce the salinity barrier that used to be present in the early days, and that we know was efficacious in stopping at least some of the invaders."
Ed Webb

More than 2,500 dead, missing as 186,000 cross Mediterranean in 2023 | Refugees News | ... - 0 views

  • More than 2,500 people have died or gone missing while trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year, the UN refugee agency said, while approximately 186,000 people have arrived in European countries during the same period.
  • of the 186,000 who had crossed the Mediterranean, 83 percent – some 130,000 people – landed in Italy. Other countries where people who had crossed the Mediterranean had landed included Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Malta.
  • the land journey from sub-Saharan African countries to sea crossing departure points on the Tunisian and Libyan coasts “remains one of the world’s most dangerous”.
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  • “Lives are also lost on land, away from public attention,”
Ed Webb

Fourth Turkish drilling ship begins energy exploration in Mediterranean - Al-Monitor: I... - 0 views

  • Turkey’s fourth drilling ship set sail today as the country continues to pursue its offshore energy exploration.  The Abdulhamid Han will conduct a two-month mission in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The ship is considered the strongest of the country’s fleet, the official Anadolu Agency reported. 
  • Turkey sent a drilling ship to parts of the Mediterranean Sea claimed by Greece in 2018 and began conducting exploration in maritime territory claimed by Cyprus in 2019. Turkey halted the activities ahead of dialogue with Greece that began in early 2021.  Turkey's dialogue with Greece ended in May of this year, and now tensions are on the rise again. Leaders of both states exchanged subtle threats in June. 
  • In June, Egyptian military leaders met with their Greek and Cypriot counterparts to discuss military cooperation. In May, the United Arab Emirates and Greece signed a $4.2 billion investment agreement. Last December, then-Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett hosted Greek and Cypriot leaders for a meeting on their security alliance. 
Ed Webb

When rescue at sea becomes a crime: who the Tunisian fishermen arrested in Italy really... - 0 views

  • On the night of Wednesday, August 29, 2018, six Tunisian fishermen were arrested in Italy. Earlier that day, they had set off from their hometown of Zarzis, the last important Tunisian port before Libya, to cast their nets in the open sea between North Africa and Sicily. The fishermen then sighted a small vessel whose engine had broken, and that had started taking in water. After giving the fourteen passengers water, milk and bread – which the fishermen carry in abundance, knowing they might encounter refugee boats in distress – they called the Italian coastguard, who told them they’d be coming soon. After hours of waiting, though, the men decided to tow the smaller boat in the direction of Lampedusa – Italy’s southernmost island – to help Italian authorities in their rescue operations. At around 24 miles from Lampedusa, the Guardia di Finanza (customs police) took the fourteen people on board, and then proceeded to violently arrest the six fishermen. According to the precautionary custody order issued by the judge in Agrigento (Sicily), the men stand accused of smuggling, a crime that could get them up to fifteen years of jail if the case goes to trial. The fishermen have since been held in Agrigento prison, and their boat has been seized.
  • Criminalising rescue, a process that has been pushed by different Italian governments since 2016, will continue to have tragic consequences for people on the move in the Mediterranean Sea
  • Among those arrested is Chamseddine Bourassine, the president of the Association “Le Pêcheur” pour le Développement et l’Environnement, which was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this year for the Zarzis fishermen’s continuous engagement in saving lives in the Mediterranean.
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  • The fishermen of Zarzis have been on the frontline of rescue in the Central Mediterranean for over fifteen years. Their fishing grounds lying between Libya – the place from which most people making their way undocumented to Europe leave – and Sicily, they were often the first to come to the aid of refugee boats in distress. “The fishermen have never really had a choice: they work here, they encounter refugee boats regularly, so over the years they learnt to do rescue at sea”, explained Gammoudi. For years, fishermen from both sides of the Mediterranean were virtually alone in this endeavour.
  • In the months following the revolution, hundreds of boats left from Zarzis taking Tunisians from all over the country to Lampedusa. Several members of the fishermen’s association remember having to sleep on their fishing boats at night to prevent them from being stolen for the harga. Other fishermen instead, especially those who were indebted, decided to sell their boats, while some inhabitants of Zarzis took advantage of the power vacuum left by the revolution and made considerable profit by organising harga crossings. “At that time there was no police, no state, and even more misery. If you wanted Lampedusa, you could have it”, rationalised another fisherman. But Chamseddine Bourassine and his colleagues saw no future in moving to Europe, and made a moral pact not to sell their boats for migration.
  • the association also got involved in alerting the youth to the dangers of boat migration, as they regularly witnessed the risks involved and felt compelled to do something for younger generations hit hard by staggering unemployment rates. In this optic, they organised training for the local youth in boat mechanics, nets mending, and diving, and collaborated in different international projects, such as NEMO, organised by the CIHEAM-Bari and funded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Directorate General for Cooperation Development. This project also helped the fishermen build a museum to explain traditional fishing methods, the first floor of which is dedicated to pictures and citations from the fishermen’s long-term voluntary involvement in coming to the rescue of refugees in danger at sea
  • When we see people at sea we rescue them. It’s not only because we follow the laws of the sea or of religion: we do it because it’s human”,
  • The situation deteriorated again though in the summer of 2017, as Italian Interior Minister Minniti struck deals with Libyan militias and coastguards to bring back and detain refugees in detention centres in Libya, while simultaneously passing laws criminalising and restricting the activity of NGO rescue boats in Italy. Media smear campaigns directed against acts of solidarity with migrants and refugees and against the work of rescue vessels in the Mediterranean poured even more fuel on already inflamed anti-immigration sentiments in Europe.
  • the fishermen opposed wholeheartedly the racism propagated by the C-Star members, and that having seen the death of fellow Africans at sea, they couldn’t but condemn these politics. Their efforts were cheered on by anti-racist networks in Sicily, who had in turn prevented the C-Star from docking in Catania port just a couple of days earlier. It is members from these same networks in Sicily together with friends of the fishermen in Tunisia and internationally that are now engaged in finding lawyers for Chamseddine and his five colleagues.
  • The fishermen’s arrest is the latest in a chain of actions taken by the Italian Lega and Five Star government to further criminalise rescue in the Mediterranean Sea, and to dissuade people from all acts of solidarity and basic compliance with international norms. This has alarmingly resulted in the number of deaths in 2018 increasing exponentially despite a drop in arrivals to Italy’s southern shores. While Chamseddine’s lawyer hasn’t yet been able to visit him in prison, his brother and cousin managed to go see him on Saturday. As for telling them about what happened on August 29, Chamseddine simply says that he was assisting people in distress at sea: he’d do it again.
Ed Webb

Turkey conducts largest ever navy drill as tensions rise in Mediterranean | Middle East... - 0 views

  • Turkish armed forces began the largest naval exercise in the country's history on Wednesday, with 103 military vessels and thousands of soldiers conducting operations in three seas surrounding the country. The drill, dubbed “Blue Homeland”, will be held until Saturday, covering over 462,000 square metres in the Black Sea, Aegean Sea and eastern Mediterranean.
  • tensions have been building in the waters to Turkey's west with its neighbours Greece and Cyprus, as the countries vie over subterranean energy resources, particularly natural gas
  • Blue Homeland has already caused disturbance in neighbouring countries, as Greek media reports suggest Athens has perceived it as a source of “renewed concern given the recent tension in bilateral relations”.
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  • Retired Turkish rear admiral Deniz Kutluk told MEE that Blue Motherland’s main aim was to show the real capabilities of Turkey's navy for deterrence, rather than sending messages to any neighbouring country. “There was this outside perception that the Turkish navy has been undermined by domestic shocks," he said.  "Senior commanders seem to understand this misperception. That’s why they wanted to reveal to the world that the Turkish navy is capable of simultaneously fighting in three seas surrounding Turkey.”
  • the drills come a week after Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu declared that Turkey would in coming days send two ships to the waters near Cyprus to begin exploring for oil and gas
  • Nothing at all can be done in the Mediterranean without Turkey, we will not allow that
  • Last November, Greece, Italy and Cyprus signed a $7bn deal with Israel to lay a pipeline and purchase Israeli natural gas, which will eventually reach wider European markets.
  • Necdet Ozcelik, an independent security analyst who served as an operations sergeant in the Turkish special forces, told MEE that Blue Motherland was being used to demonstrate that Turkey could provide energy security and act as a transit hub for resources in the region. “The competition in eastern Mediterranean for energy resources will be increasingly under the spotlight as the Syrian crisis comes to an end," he said. 
Ed Webb

What's behind Egypt meeting with Greece, Cyprus at this time? - 0 views

  • The seventh tripartite summit between Egypt, Cyprus and Greece was held Oct. 8 at Ittihadiya Palace in Cairo. The summit was chaired by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and involved Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
  • a joint declaration that the three presidents underlined the importance of making additional efforts to boost security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean region, and strongly denounce any Turkish attempt to undermine the Syrian territorial integrity. They also expressed willingness to promote cooperation in the fields of natural gas drilling and transportation, and stressed the need for stronger international efforts in combating terrorism and extremism. The declaration stated that the three presidents emphasized that an effective international role to break the deadlock in the talks over the Grand Renaissance Dam is a necessity.
  • attributed the importance of the summit’s timing “to the need that each country supports the other in the decisive issues facing it.”
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  • Cairo had officially announced that the talks over the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam have come to a dead end, and that Ethiopia rejected the proposals Cairo made to Addis Ababa and Khartoum. This is while Ankara said Oct. 7 that the Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz will start gas drilling activities southwest of Cyprus.
  • Egypt needs to mobilize international support in the talks over the dam, and that Cyprus needs similar support against the Turksih gas drilling activities in the waters that Cyprus considers to be part of its Exclusive Economic Zone
  • the energy dossier, particularly natural gas, was of utmost importance at the summit.
  • “I do not think that such support would have a major impact on the [international] decisions relating to the Turkey-Cyprus dispute. Neither do Egypt and Greece have effective means to pressure Turkey, nor are Cyprus and Greece able to pressure Ethiopia in the talks over the dam. Yet at the end of the day it is a kind of political support.”
  • Cyprus and Greece are interested in investing in the Suez Canal, and Egypt is interested as well in the advantages Cyprus and Greece can bring to the field of ports management
  • Syrian and Libyan crises and subsequent illegal migration via the Mediterranean Sea,
  • The three countries signed May 22 an electricity interconnection agreement.
  •  “The summit delivers to Turkey the warning message that carrying on with its international law violations would require the three countries to take a firm stance that the European Union — which already imposed sanctions against Turkey — backs.”
  • part of the Eastern Mediterranean Initiative (Cairo Declaration) on tripartite cooperation and coordination in the gas, energy and oil resources dossiers in the Eastern Mediterranean that Egypt launched on Nov. 8, 2014
Ed Webb

Can EU's fear of terrorists give Turkey clout in ocean drilling? - 0 views

  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has once again stunned Europe, this time by threatening to send captured Islamic State (IS) suspects there
  • Erdogan's most recent threats came as he was responding to the European Union warning of sanctions against Turkey’s drilling operations in the eastern Mediterranean.
  • Ankara is angry that the Cyprus government is pursuing oil and natural gas exploration without ensuring the rights of the Turkish side, and that the EU is backing Cyprus. Ankara has found itself isolated. Greece, which had made exploration deals with Italy's ENI, France's Total and America's Noble and ExxonMobil, secured the full support of the United States and the EU last year. Early this year, the Republic of Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Palestine and Egypt established the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum in Cairo.
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  • Turkey's drilling operations near Cyprus prompted the EU to threaten sanctions that stipulated severing high-level contacts with Turkey, suspending the Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement and reducing 145.8 million euros ($161.4 million) in funding the EU was to provide until 2020. On Nov. 11, the EU announced the framework of sanctions targeting people and institutions participating in Turkey’s exploration activities.
  • Europe's legal system offers flexibilities that can benefit IS members. If those sent to Germany are not definitively implicated in armed clashes, killing or torture, they can avoid the court process. Just having traveled to IS-controlled areas isn't enough; prosecutors want proof that those sent back intentionally joined IS.
  • Sending IS members back to their original countries is a major issue, even beyond Turkey’s desire to use such deportations for its own interests. The decision by some countries to revoke the citizenship of IS members has made the issue much more complex. For instance, as of February the UK had revoked the citizenship of about 100 returnees.
  • According to official data, there are 1,180 IS suspects in Turkish prisons, 250 in repatriation centers and 850 in areas Turkey controls in Syria. There are also an estimated 90,000 IS-affiliated suspects in Kurdish camps in Syria. Ankara was accused of allowing some prisoners to escape during the operation it launched in Syria last month.
  • A European official who deals with IS issues said he, like others, sees Erdogan's actions as blackmail. “Erdogan, with his blackmail policy, gets whatever he wants because economic interests override [everything else]. Fear of immigration is big," he told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “[European countries] didn’t want to take the IS militants and their families while they were held by Kurds; they wanted them to stay there. Some countries quietly brought over some IS families. But this is not a sustainable policy. Now as Erdogan is [deporting] them, many countries are astounded,”
Ed Webb

What is at stake in the eastern Mediterranean crisis? | Financial Times - 0 views

  • Competition over gas discoveries in the eastern Mediterranean has combined with bitter regional rivalries to fuel dangerous tensions between Turkey and its neighbours in recent months. Many fear this could lead to direct military confrontation between Turkey and Greece, as the two Nato members and their allies square up over control of the seas.
  • the Turkish Cypriot self-declared state is not recognised by the international community, which views the government on the Greek Cypriot side as the legitimate authority for the whole island. Cyprus was contentiously admitted to the EU in 2004
  • Turkey believes that the government that sits in southern Cyprus should not have the right to auction blocks of its surrounding seabed to international energy companies until Turkish Cypriots can share the benefits. But peace talks have failed multiple times in the past 45 years
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  • Turkey also believes its own southern coastline gives it economic rights in waters off Cyprus that Nicosia sees as part of its territory.
  • Most of the discoveries so far have been in the south-eastern portion of the region, close to Egypt, Israel and Cyprus’s southern coast. The areas where Turkey is drilling for gas do not yet have proven reserves.But work to assess and develop these prospects has largely been delayed this year because of the slump in energy prices during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The development of gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean has forged some unlikely alliances. The EastMed Gas Forum, nicknamed “the Opec of Mediterranean gas” was formally established in Cairo this year. It brings together Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Greece, Cyprus and Italy, with the aim of establishing the region as a major energy hub
  • left Turkey isolated because of its tensions with many members, including Greece and Egypt, even as the forum has helped to forge common ground between Israel and a number of its neighbours.
  • Turkey backs the UN-endorsed Libyan government in Tripoli that has been fighting renegade general Khalifa Haftar, who has received support from nations including Russia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and France.
  • The second agreement demarcated a new sea boundary between Turkey and Libya, angering Greece and complicating plans for a future pipeline from Cyprus to Greece, via Crete, that could pipe gas to mainland Europe. As Turkey’s influence in Libya increased, countries such as the UAE and France have become increasingly vocal about the dispute in the east Mediterranean. Both nations dispatched forces to join recent military exercises held by Greece and Cyprus in a show of strength against Turkey.
  • Germany launched a mediation attempt between Athens and Ankara that stalled when Greece signed a new maritime deal with Egypt, angering Turkey. 
  • France is increasingly swinging towards the Greece-Cyprus position because of its own disputes with Turkey, particularly over Libya
Ed Webb

A Critical Perspective from the South - governmentgazette.eu - Readability - 0 views

  • various obstacles have prevented convergence in policy discourses and processes across both shores of the Mediterranean
  • The EU’s emphasis on a security-centered approach in migration management and the prioritization of stability over democracy in the MENA region, have led to widening the Euro-Mediterranean gap.
  • the promotion of democracy and human rights represented one of the major normative objectives of the 1995 Barcelona Declaration. Still, due to a mix of pragmatic and security-driven considerations, the EU has co-operated with authoritarian regimes that upheld stability in the Arab region and in the Euro-Mediterranean order. The EU has moreover promoted a gradualist path of liberalization in the Arab world which consisted in galvanizing economic reforms and providing support to civil society groups. Ironically enough, this gradualist strategy contributed to maintaining the façade of liberalization that autocratic regimes were eager to advertise
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  • political engagement is not necessarily a slippery slope to interventionism
    • Ed Webb
       
      Key word: necessarily
  • boosting liberalization through economic means has proven to be unsatisfactory
  • Since 9/11, the EU has engaged in the MENA region with social and political actors whom it considered as moderate and liberal. Its uneasy relationship with Islamist parties has prevented it from tackling the interface between democratization and the requirement for inclusiveness
  • bridging the gap between a European and an Arab perspective of current changes in the Arab region is crucial
  • financing research and empowering academic and media discourses that help depict Arab narratives away from Western-centric and orientalist interpretative frameworks can set the tone for the development of a more balanced dialogue
  • The former Barcelona process and the Union for the Mediterranean (UFM), currently criticized for compartmentalizing issues of co-operation whilst sidelining core political problems, have called into question the multilateral dimension of Euro-Arab co-operation
  • while the bilateral approach can help boost democratic transitions in individual countries, tackling in the long term structural issues obstructing reform and good governance in the MENA region would still require multilateral channels
Ed Webb

Exxon's likely gas find off Cyprus could reignite tension in E. Mediterranean - analysi... - 0 views

  • U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil is soon expected to announce that its drilling campaign offshore the southern coast of the divided island of Cyprus has resulted in a major gas discovery, thereby reigniting tension between Cyprus, Greece, and Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, the Guardian reported.
  • Exxon has found a commercially viable oil reservoir in Block 10 offshore Cyprus amid warnings from Ankara against exploration due to what it says is ignoring the rights of the Turkish Cypriot people
  • Erdoğan warned last November that Ankara would not allow other countries to drill for gas in Turkish or northern Cypriot waters in the resource-rich eastern Mediterranean.
Ed Webb

Turkey Rattled by Weak Hand in Libya as Russia and Egypt Advance - 0 views

  • By assisting Egypt to protect its western border, Moscow has re-forged the military links of its former alliance with Cairo
  • The 75-year-old Haftar, who retains the loyalty of the parliament in Tobruk, is a central actor in the Libyan civil war. A former ally of deposed Libyan strong man Moammar Gadhafi who received his military training in the Soviet Union, Haftar maintains deep ties with Russia. Haftar’s forces control most of Libya’s oil facilities, particularly after they captured the ports along Libya’s “Oil Crescent” in September 2016, resulting in a rise in oil production from 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) to over 700,000 bpd in January 2017.  On February 21, 2018 Russian oil giant Rosneft signed an investment and crude oil purchasing agreement with Libya’s National Oil Corporation, paving the way for a major Russian role in Libya’s oil industry.
  • In January 2017, Haftar was invited aboard Russia’s aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean in order to conduct a video conference with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu
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  • During Ahmet Davutoğlu’s tenure as Turkey’s prime minister, relations between Ankara and the Tobruk-based parliament deteriorated to the point where all Turkish firms were expelled from Libya. 
  • Ankara's efforts to gain influence in Libya pale in comparison to the security assets that Moscow and Egypt may be preparing for a more expanded military presence in Libya. On November 7, 2018, Haftar and his senior staff visited Moscow for their latest meeting with Russia's defense minister Sergei Shoigu. Following the session, the Libyan Armed Forces released a video showing the presence of Yevgeny Prigozhin, an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin and linked to several Russian private military companies, including the Wagner Group that allegedly participated in operations in Syria. Prigozhin's presence at the Haftar-Shoigu meeting has suggested to observers within Russia and beyond that Moscow may be gearing up for some form of increased intervention in Libya with operations similar to those conducted in Syria.
  • from November 3 to 16, Egypt hosted a two-week long joint exercise with the militaries of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Jordan. Dubbed Arab Shield 1, the exercise involved land, naval, and air forces as well as Special Forces and took place at Egypt's base in Marsa Matrouh. While some view the exercises as a step toward creating an 'Arab NATO' to confront Iran, the massive joint Arab exercise on Egypt's Mediterranean coast sent a clear signal to Turkey and demonstrated the sort of coalition Egypt could muster should it decide to expand its military footprint in Libya
  • both Russia and Egypt have strategic incentives to escalate their support for the aging Libyan commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.  In April 2018, the general suffered a stroke and required hospitalization in an intensive care unit in Paris.  Although two of Haftar's sons are commanders in the Libyan National Army, it is unclear whether either one of them could maintain the loyalty of the coalition of diverse factions that have united under the figure of Khalifa Haftar.  It would behoove both Moscow and Cairo to press their current advantage and deepen their respective positions in preparation for a post-Haftar era.
  • Moscow’s military presence in Libya would enable the Kremlin to complete a Russian ring around the southern half of the eastern Mediterranean. It is worth noting that Vladimir Putin's Russia is more popular than NATO in Greece and among Greek Cypriots. With only 195 nautical miles (360 km) separating Tobruk and Crete, Turkey thus faces the prospect of eventually finding itself encircled by a Russian presence among all of its regional adversaries
  • The change in the balance of power in North Africa in favor of Russia and Egypt inevitably and severely undermines Turkey's already challenging strategic position in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Ed Webb

UAE to send F-16s to Crete for training with Greek military amid tensions with Turkey - 0 views

  • The United Arab Emirates is sending four F-16 fighter aircraft for joint training with the Greek military on Crete, an Athens-based daily newspaper reported Friday. The aircraft will partake in training exercise with Greece’s military over the Eastern Mediterranean amid heightened tensions with Turkey, which has deployed naval vessels to escort a hydrocarbon exploration ship to waters claimed by Greece.
  • The deployment comes as Turkey also prepared to announce its largest-ever natural gas discovery in the Black Sea, and just a week after the UAE announced its formal recognition the state of Israel in a historic deal brokered by the US.
  • renewed regional opposition to Turkey’s ambitions in the Mediterranean
Ed Webb

UAE Peace Deal Opens Doors for Secret Israeli-Iranian Pipeline and Big Oil Investments - 0 views

  • desert oil pipeline that Israel once operated as a secret joint venture with Iran could be a major beneficiary from the Trump-brokered peace deal with the United Arab Emirates. With the UAE formally scrapping the eight-decade Arab boycott of Israel—and other oil-rich Gulf neighbors likely to follow suit—the Jewish state is on the cusp of playing a much bigger role in the region’s energy trade, petroleum politics, and Big Oil investments
  • Stepping cautiously out of the shadows, the Israeli managers of Europe Asia Pipeline Co. (EAPC) say their 158-mile conduit from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea provides both a cheaper alternative to Egypt’s Suez Canal and an option to connect to the Arab pipeline grid that transports oil and gas not just to the region, but to the seaports that supply the world
  • the pipeline, which connects Israel’s southern port of Eilat with a tanker terminal in Ashkelon on the Mediterranean coast, could nip off a significant share of the oil shipments now flowing through the nearby Suez Canal.
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  • Now that the Emiratis have broken the ice, opportunities for Arab-Israeli energy deals are broad and lucrative, ranging from investment in the Israeli pipeline itself, to adapting it for carrying natural gas or connecting it to pipelines across Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East
  • Just over 60 years ago when it was built, the Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline was a massive national construction project aimed at guaranteeing Israel’s and Europe’s energy supplies in the wake of the 1956 Suez crisis
  • Most of the oil flowing through the pipeline came from Iran, which had close but discreet relations with Israel for decades under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. In 1968, the Israeli and Iranian governments registered what was then called the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Co. as a 50-50 joint venture to manage the export of Iranian crude through Israeli territory and onward by tanker to Europe
  • A Swiss court ordered Israel in 2015 to pay Iran compensation of about $1.1 billion as a share of profits from the joint ownership of the pipeline since the two enemies broke off relations in 1979, but Israel has refused to pay up.
  • While the company’s main 42-inch pipeline was built to transport Iranian oil north to the Mediterranean, it now does most of its business in reverse. It can pump oil unloaded in Ashkelon from ships sent by producers such as Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan to tankers in the Gulf of Aqaba for transport to China, South Korea, or elsewhere in Asia
  • The pipeline’s advantage over the Suez is the ability of the terminals in Ashkelon and Eilat to accommodate the giant supertankers that dominate oil shipping today, but are too big to fit through the canal. Known in oilspeak as VLCCs, or very large crude carriers, the ships can transport as much as 2 million barrels of petroleum. The 150-year-old Suez Canal, on the other hand, is only deep and wide enough to handle so-called Suezmax vessels, with just half the capacity of a VLCC
  • The company’s business has always been one of Israel’s most closely guarded secrets. Even today, EAPC releases no financial statements. Levi says he can’t disclose the names of customers—though he says they include “some of the biggest companies in the world.” What little information that is publicly known only came to light as the result of legal battles following a 2014 rupture in the pipeline that caused the worst environmental disaster in Israeli history, spilling more than 1.3 million gallons of crude oil into the Ein Evrona desert nature preserve.
  • The boycott enforced by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and their oil-producing neighbors meant that tankers acknowledging their docking in Israel would be barred from future loadings in the Persian Gulf, effectively destroying their business. The details are highly confidential—but generally the ways ships can obscure their activities include turning off their transponders, repainting, reflagging, reregistering, and faking their docking records.
  • EAPC’s business model improves dramatically with the erosion of the Arab boycott. “If the concerns [with secrecy] go down significantly, the price will drop significantly,”
  • Saudi Arabia has indicated it won’t establish formal links until the Palestinian conflict is resolved, although its business connections with Israel are plentiful and growing
  • Because of the canal’s limitations, much of the Gulf crude bound for Europe and North America gets pumped through Egypt’s Suez-Mediterranean Pipeline, in which Saudi Arabia and the UAE hold a stake. Egypt’s pipeline, however, operates in only one direction, making it less useful than its Israeli competitor, which can also handle, for example, Russian or Azerbaijani oil heading to Asia.
  • Even more possibilities arise from Israel’s discovery of a bounty of natural gas deposits off its Mediterranean coast that can supply far more than Israel’s own needs. Bringing in Gulf investors in addition to Israel’s current partners such as Chevron, and the possibility of connecting to the Middle East’s gas pipeline grid, would open yet another new horizon for Israel’s nascent energy industry.
Ed Webb

The Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum: A Lebanese perspective - 0 views

  • Energy Ministers from Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority took an important step in Cairo toward establishing an Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF)
  • assist in the creation of a regional gas market, ensure security of supply and demand, optimize resource development, facilitate the use of existing infrastructure and build new ones if necessary, etc.
  • it has become increasingly clear that regional cooperation is needed to make the most out of the region’s resources. The Eastern Mediterranean’s gas potential is promising. But, beside Egypt, the countries in the region have to deal with a number of challenges to exploit their resources. First, these resources are mostly offshore, in deep and ultra-deep waters, which makes drilling a complex and costly operation. When found in commercial quantities, their extraction is expensive. Second, the relevant infrastructure to monetize these resources is quasi-inexistent (outside Egypt). And if this was not enough, the geopolitical risk is high (conflict in Syria, terrorism, the Cyprus problem and sour relations between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey, a constant state of tension between Lebanon and Israel, deteriorating relations between Turkey and Egypt, and between Turkey and Israel etc.).
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  • Turkish warships prevented a drillship from reaching its drilling target in Block 3 of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone
  • Besides Syria, which is still struggling with its many wars, there are two notable absences: Turkey and Lebanon.
  • On one hand, there are offshore resources that – until now at least – require cooperation to facilitate their exploitation, and on the other, we see renewed geopolitical rivalries in the Eastern Mediterranean.
  • it is clear that this alignment is primarily in reaction to what many of the founding members perceive as aggressive Turkish behavior over the last few years. Many Lebanese are ignoring this dimension and feel that this forum, and this alignment, are directed against them.
  • A small country like Lebanon, in a turbulent region, does not have the luxury of picking and choosing its friends, with a country with which it is in a state of war to the south, and a Syria mired in conflict along the rest of its borders.
  • More than any other member State, Egypt has the possibility to reach out to Lebanon. Egypt is the key player in this new configuration, and, as an Arab country that maintains close and brotherly ties with Lebanon, it can play an important role in reassuring the Lebanese about the project while also seeking to strengthen prospects for energy cooperation between the two countries.
Ed Webb

Club Med: Israel, Egypt, and Others Form New Natural Gas Group - Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • a forum joining Israel, Egypt, Cyprus, and other neighbors to develop their new natural gas discoveries. The Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, announced Monday in Cairo, formalizes growing energy ties among recent rivals and could spur much-needed development of energy infrastructure required to tap the region’s potential as a source of energy for Europe and beyond. The forum in particular cements the growing commercial links between Israel and Egypt; Israel expects to start shipping natural gas to Egypt in the next few months as part of a landmark, $15 billion deal between the two countries.
  • a few notable absences, including Syria and Lebanon—both of which are trying to develop potential offshore gas fields—and especially Turkey
  • The new body will promote “discussions among countries that already have cooperation with each other,” said Brenda Shaffer, an energy expert at Georgetown University. “Hopefully, in the next round of the forum, Turkey will be involved, and that would make it much more significant and not just include the happy campers.”
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  • even with the creation of the new organization and increased energy exploration, the Eastern Mediterranean has a long way to go to truly become the kind of energy hub that many in the region and even in Brussels hope to see. The European Union’s top energy official, for instance, has repeatedly pointed to the Eastern Mediterranean’s potential as an alternative source of energy to importing gas from Russia, and Egypt dreams of again becoming an exporter of natural gas to Europe, as it was until 2012
  • grandiose plans, such as a pipeline snaking across to southern Europe via Crete, keep colliding with political and economic realities. Deep waters and high costs make building a pipeline to Europe an expensive proposition
  • Another option to market the gas would be to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals; liquefied gas can be shipped on tankers around the world. But the problem, aside from the upfront cost of building the expensive infrastructure needed to superchill natural gas, is the economics of the gas trade, especially when it comes to competing with Russian energy supplies to Europe. LNG costs a lot more than natural gas shipped through a pipeline, and Russian gas is especially cheap.
  • Europe’s dependence on Russian energy is growing,
  • Tapping its own natural gas fields would enable Cyprus to replace costly energy imports and power its economy. Israel has already turned its first offshore gas discoveries into a new, cleaner source of electricity, and the country hopes to phase out coal entirely over the next decade. Egypt, too, is using domestic natural gas resources to keep the lights on and factories running, and natural gas demand there is expected to keep growing and potentially gobble up whatever is produced by additional offshore discoveries.
Ed Webb

Curb Your Enthusiasm - Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • optimism is raging about the potential energy bounty lying underneath the eastern Mediterranean Sea. But energy development could as easily become a casualty as the cure for the region’s tortured geopolitics
  • Lebanon and Israel are at daggers drawn over new plans for exploration in offshore gas fields in disputed waters, and Hezbollah is using the energy dispute to ratchet up rhetoric against Israel. And this month, a Turkish naval ship intercepted an exploration vessel working in waters off Cyrus, threatening to escalate tensions between the Greek and Turkish halves of the divided island.
  • Israel’s first two gas fields are running at full speed, and two more could see investment decisions this year, notes Nikos Tsafos, an energy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Meanwhile, Egypt brought the Zohr field, its own mammoth gas discovery, online in record time, which promises to ease a cash crunch in Cairo aggravated by importing pricey gas.
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  • Israel’s two gas export deals — with Egypt and Jordan — were signed with the two Arab countries with which the Jewish state already had peace treaties, and even then relations are still fraught at times. Meanwhile, hopes that natural gas pipelines and projects could soothe years of tensions between Israel and Turkey have apparently evaporated.
  • “Politics drives energy relations, not vice versa,”
  • Lebanon’s decision this month to award an exploration concession to three international firms — France’s Total, Italy’s Eni, and Russia’s Novatek — to drill in a promising block off the Lebanese coast has ignited fresh tensions between Beirut and Jerusalem.
  • Mediation was at the top of the agenda during Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent visit to Lebanon, as it has been for U.S. officials since 2012, but with little success. A senior U.S. diplomat tried again Wednesday but found little Lebanese appetite for U.S. proposals. While Israel wants continued U.S. mediation in the spat, Lebanon and especially Hezbollah see Washington as too pro-Israel to play that role, especially after the Donald Trump administration’s controversial decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said the United States is “not an honest broker.”
  • This month — as it did in 2014 — a Turkish ship intercepted a drilling vessel in Cypriot waters; Ankara, which recognizes the Turkish north of the divided island, refuses to cede those waters to Greek Cyprus and angrily warned it could take further action if development continues. The Turkish Foreign Ministry said it is “determined to take the necessary steps” to support the northern half of the island in its dispute with Greek Cypriots, who Ankara said are “irresponsibly jeopardizing the security and stability of the Eastern Mediterranean region.”
  • “Shared interest in [energy resources] might provide an incentive for cooperation among countries of the region that already enjoy more or less good relations,” Sukkarieh says. “But it is equally conceivable that they could fuel rivalries as well, like we are seeing lately with Turkey.”
Ed Webb

Egypt's navy modernization, The growth of new power in the Middle east - egyptiandefens... - 0 views

  • Among the real challenges that Egypt Faces in the Region, Is the Israeli & Turkish threat in the context of the conflict over energy resources in East Mediterranean region and how to protect its energy resources & gas fields there
  • Egypt will have a huge reserve of natural gas and will establish dozens of gas fields in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, which requires the formation of a naval force that can deter & thwart any threats to Egyptian economic interests and territorial waters
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