Is Turkey Going To Duke It Out With the Russian Navy Over Cyprus?

[On Oct. 4, the Turkish Govt. issued NAVTEX (navigational telex) 765/14, warning that Turkish warships were taking-up position south of Cyprus, to carry-out Operation Mediterranean Shield “safe passage” maneuvers.  This turned-out to be approximately 5 miles from the already operational Italian/S.Korean ENI-KOGAS drill ship SAIPEM 10000.

The NAVTEX became effective on Oct. 20. 

On Oct. 20, the Russian Navy showed-up,

to hold three days of live fire exercises all over the area “reserved” by the Turks (SEE: Turkish and Russian fleet in Cypriot waters)

Russian navy warships dock in Cyprus

Israeli-Cypriot air exercises were to begin after the Russian drills ended, but the crash of a Cypriot to Beirut Cessna flight in the NAVTEX zone prompted an early start to those exercises as search operations. ]

Why Is Turkey Increasing Tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean?

WASHINGTON—On September 23, the drill ship SAIPEM 10000 — built in South Korea at the cost of $250 million and flying the flag of the Bahamas — arrived in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Cyprus to begin exploring for gas under a license awarded to an Italian-South Korean consortium, ENI-KOGAS. The Cyprus government hopes that additional discoveries over the next 18 months in its EEZ will be sufficient to make its plans to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant on the island, to condition gas for export, commercially viable.The Turkish authorities declared that the drill ship violated Turkey’s area of maritime jurisdiction and sent the Corvette Bafra to monitor operations. Another Turkish warship, the Gelibolu, engaged in planned maneuvers south of Cyprus ostensibly to ensure maritime safety in the eastern Mediterranean. The Cyprus foreign minister, Ioannis Kasoulides, said that exploration would continue despite Turkey’s “potential harassment.”

On October 3, a Turkish NAVTEX (navigational warning) notified mariners that Turkey would conduct its own seismic surveys starting on October 20 in sea areas that encroach on Cyprus’s EEZ. The Cyprus president, Nicos Anastasiades, asked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to persuade Turkey not to violate Cyprus’s EEZ. Anastasiades also announced that he would not participate in further talks with the Turkish Cypriot leader Derviş Eroğlu, aimed at ending the division of the island, as long as Turkish activities, which he deemed unlawful and threatening, continued offshore.

Why has Turkey escalated tensions at this moment, when the two Cypriot leaders have begun renewed, albeit wearisome, efforts to find a solution to the division of the island? The simplest explanation, offered by observers close to the Turkish foreign ministry, is that Turkey is following its consistent policy of opposing explorations offshore pending such a solution. Others suggest that Turkey is seeking to move the offshore energy issue into the settlement talks, a step opposed by the Greek Cypriot side. Eroğlu may also wish to look tough in the run-up to the April 2015 leadership election in the northern part of the island.

But the broader geopolitical context may also be relevant. Turkish President Derviş Eroğlu may be signaling that Turkey remains a power to be reckoned with at a time when he is facing a number of serious setbacks. On Tuesday, a curfew was declared in six Turkish provinces following demonstrations against the government for inaction over the advance by fighters from the Islamic State (ISIS) on Kobane, just over the border in Syria. Twenty-three people are reported to have been killed during these demonstrations. There has been a further outpouring of refugees into Turkey as a result of fighting over Kobane. Erdoğan claimed that “ISIS and the PKK (The Kurdistan Workers’ Party) are the same for Turkey,” implying that Turkey would lose from the struggle along its border, whatever its outcome. His position on Turkish involvement in the Iraq-Syria conflict remains ambiguous despite a pledge from the new NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that the alliance would protect Turkey from any spillover of the conflict with fighters from the Islamic State.

Other developments this week may also have irked Ankara. The outgoing European Commission has just issued its annual report on Turkey’s progress toward fulfilling the conditions for eventual EU membership. While constructive in tone and recognized by the Turkish EU minister as objective, the report expresses serious concerns about attempts to ban social media in Turkey, limitations on press freedom, inadequate guarantees of minority rights, and the lack of independence of the judiciary, especially in its handling of allegations of corruption. As in the past, the Commission pointedly “urged Turkey to avoid any kind of threat or action directed against a member state, or source of friction or actions, which could damage good neighborly relations and the peaceful settlement of disputes.”

Ankara has chosen not to heed this advice and has ramped up its rhetoric, denouncing the Greek Cypriot side for suspending its participation in Cyprus settlement talks. Turkey also holds Cyprus responsible for blocking progress in several chapters of its EU membership talks. Greek Cypriot leaders have confirmed that offshore energy resources will benefit all Cypriots, but Turkey distrusts this commitment given the present stalemate in the settlement talks. The conservative European Peoples Party in the European Parliament and the U.S. Department of State have taken Turkey to task for escalating tensions. Although Cyprus may seem like a sideshow compared with the challenges in Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine, the EU, the United States, and the UN should use their influence to prevent an escalation of this longstanding offshore dispute. Their goal should be to ensure that the offshore energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean benefit all the countries in the region, including Turkey, and that they do not become an additional source of conflict.

Sir Michael Leigh leads GMF’s project on energy in the Eastern Mediterranean.


Erdogan Making His Own Laws In Cyprus–Kinda Like Obama Everywhere

[SEE: International tolerance “enhances Turkey’s criminal behavior” – Omirou ; Greece, Egypt, Cyprus urge Turkey to quit gas search off island ANKARA WARNS UN THAT FEW OPPORTUNITIES REMAIN FOR CYPRUS]

Tensions high as Turkish ships camp in Cyprus EEZ, Nicosia to announce measures tomorrow

famagusta gazette.

“Turkey is acting as if it wants to send some sort of message. The fact that it is not bluffing, does not mean that its tactics will work or that at the end of these actions it will work in its favour,” he said.
“Turkey is acting as if it wants to send some sort of message. The fact that it is not bluffing, does not mean that its tactics will work or that at the end of these actions it will work in its favour,” he said.
• Monday, 20 October, 2014
Venizelos: “brutal violation of the international law of the sea”
THE Cyprus government is expected to announce “measures and actions”, following Ankara`s provocations in the island`s EEZ.

The Turkish seismic exploration vessel “Barbaros” entered Cyprus`s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) earlier in the day.

The move comes a few days after Turkey issued a maritime order, or NAVTEX, for the area.

It is understood that the measures to be taken by Nicosia will be be political, diplomatic and legal and the aim is to “have an outcome”.

The Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is going to visit Cyprus on November 7, according to well informed sources.

Meanwhile, Greece`s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos has stated presence of the Turkish research vessels constitutes a “brutal violation of the international law of the sea”.

Defence sources in Nicosia have said that authorities are monitoring the Turkish Barbaros vessel and were “ready to deal with any eventuality”.

Earlier, Defence minister Christoforos Fokaides told CyBC Radio that the actions of Ankara were “provocative and illegal”.

He said their ships were being closely monitored.

“Turkey is acting as if it wants to send some sort of message. The fact that it is not bluffing, does not mean that its tactics will work or that at the end of these actions it will work in its favour,” he said.

At a lunch for Foreign Correspondents at the Presidential Palace, the government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said that the current crisis was “the most serious” escalation of the dispute with Turkey that Cyprus had faced in over 30 years.

Turkish Cypriot daily ‘KP News’ reported that the Barbaros is already engaged in dredging, surveying or underwater operations.
According to reports, ENI’s drilling work in offshore Block 9 were continuing without problems.


Erdogan’s Book of Defeat


In the entire Middle East, Turkey now has only two allies: Qatar, which looks more like a rich, family-owned gas station than a state; and Hamas, a terrorist organization.

Tunisia was the final chapter in Erdogan’s book of defeat. Neo-Ottomanism was a childish dream. It is, now, a “sealed” childish dream.

Shortly after the Arab Spring rocked several capitals in the Middle East, the Turks devised a plan that would enable their country to emerge as the new Ottoman Empire. While deliberately and systematically antagonizing Israel, Ankara would: replace the Shia-controlled Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad with a Turkey-friendly Sunni ruler; support the Sunni in Iraq and Lebanon and boost their political influence; support Hamas in the Palestinian territories and provoke it to violence against Israel; and make sure that the Muslim Brotherhood or their various brethren rule Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Saudis were already “our Muslim brothers.” Eventually, all former Ottoman lands would produce governments subservient to the emerging Turkish Empire.

Nearly four years later, Syria’s Assad is comfortably sitting in his presidential palace in Damascus and possibly laughing at the mess the Turks created by supporting Syria’s jihadists. These jihadists have only wreaked havoc along Turkey’s nearly 900-mile-long borders with both Syria and Iraq.

The Shia in Iraq are as powerful as before, and remain obedient to Turkey’s regional sectarian rival, Iran.

The Shia in Lebanon — where Turks are a high-value currency on the hostage market — are increasingly hostile to Turkey.

No one knows who rules Libya after the downfall of Colonel Qaddafi, but none of the warring factions want any Turks meddling in the former Ottoman colony.

Meanwhile, a coup in July 2013 toppled the Turks’ most-trusted regional ally, Egypt’s then president, Mohamed Morsi. Today, not only the Turks but also Turkish products — including even soap operas — are unwanted in Egypt.

‘Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy…’ Pictured above: Egypt’s then President Mohamed Morsi (left) poses with Turkey’s then Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan, before Morsi was overthrown and jailed.

With the downfall — ironically, instead of Assad — of their Islamist allies in the region, the Turks recently discreetly moved to win back Egypt, the most populous Muslim nation in the region.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu asked to meet with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Hassan Shorky Selim, on the sidelines of the UN summit in September. The Egyptian minister abruptly cancelled the meeting, citing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “insulting words about [Egyptian] President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.” A statement from the Egyptian foreign ministry called Erdogan’s words “lies and fabrication.”

More recently, Cairo announced that it would not renew a three-year transit trade agreement with Turkey. The decision indicates a further worsening of bilateral ties, which had been downgraded, as in the instance of Israel, to the level of chargé d’affaires. The transit trade agreement, signed in 2012 when Morsi was in power, had facilitated Turkish exports to African nations and the Gulf through Egypt’s mainland, via Egyptian ports. Turkish companies previously sent their cargo to Gulf and African customers through Syria, when relations with Syria were normal. After Erdogan chose cold war with Syria, the Syrian route was closed to the Turks. The Turks then signed the transit deal with Egypt to use their ports and mainland as the alternative route. Now that Egypt will terminate this agreement, Turkish companies will be deprived of an easy route to Gulf and African customers.

Ironically, only six weeks before General al-Sisi ousted Egypt’s Islamist President Morsi, Turkey had granted Egypt a $250 million loan to finance Turkish-Egyptian joint defense projects. The loan, the first of its kind, was intended to boost defense cooperation and Turkish exports of defense equipment to Egypt. At that time, Turkey was hoping to sell Egypt scores of Turkish-made drones, tactical naval boats and helicopters.

Egypt’s hostile move was a “shock” to Ankara, but only to Ankara. “Apparently everyone dealing with the Egyptians knew this was coming, except the Turks,” said one EU ambassador in Ankara.

It was not a secret that Egypt and the Turks’ “Muslim brothers, Saudi Arabia” aggressively lobbied against Turkey’s failed bid in September to win the seat of the non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The EU ambassador said: “There may be further Egyptian moves to retaliate against Turkish hostilities. After Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Israel, Turkey has completely lost Egypt.”

That mishap left Turkey’s Islamists with one ideological ally in the former Ottoman lands: Tunisia, where the Muslim Brotherhood-inspired Ennahda party was in a coalition government — until this past weekend.

Ennahda, the first Islamist movement to secure power after the 2011 Arab Spring revolts, conceded defeat in elections that are expected to make its main secular rival, Nidaa Tounes party, the strongest force in parliament.

This defeat is a huge setback for Erdogan’s Tunisian ideological allies, who had headed a coalition government with two non-religious partners for more than two years.

Tunisia was the final chapter in Erdogan’s book of defeat. Neo-Ottomanism was a childish dream. It is, now, a “sealed” childish dream.

In the entire Middle East, Turkey now has only two allies: Qatar, which looks more like a rich, family-owned gas station than a state; and Hamas, a terrorist organization. But Turkey has a rich menu of hostilities: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, (discreetly) Jordan, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, (as always) Cyprus, (now) Tunisia, (also discreetly) Morocco and Algeria, and (most warring factions of) Libya.

In an April 2012 speech, then Foreign Minister Davutoglu defined Turkey’s policy goal as: “On the historic march of our holy nation, the AK Party signals the birth of a global power and the mission for a new world order. This is the centenary of our exit from the Middle East… whatever we lost between 1911 and 1923, whatever lands we withdrew from, from 2011 to 2023 we shall once again meet our brothers in those lands. This is a … historic mission.”

That was a not-so-covert message of a strategic goal of reviving the Empire. Only nine years before the deadline to “meet our brothers” and the birth of Turkey as “a global power with a mission to build a new world order,” Turkey looks rather dramatically isolated.

Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.