Sunday, 16 October 2011

Turks step up naval patrols around Cyprus… but so do Russia and France

Not satisfied with dispatching the decrepit seismic research vessel Piri Reis to waters around Cyprus in a risible assertion of Turkey’s hegemonic ambitions in the Eastern Mediterranean and a show of its desire to disrupt Cyprus’s exploration of its Exclusive Economic Zone, the Ottomans have now sent two frigates, two corvettes and a submarine to patrol the area.

Imminently joining them will be a Russian battle group led by the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov (pictured) and, indeed, if reports in today’s Cypriot press are to be believed, France will soon be making its naval presence felt in the Eastern Mediterranean.

France’s increased interest is thought to coincide with the news that the Cypriot government will, early next year, put up for auction the rights to explore the other 12 blocks in the 13 blocks that comprise the southern part of Cyprus’ EEZ. Currently, the US firm Noble Energy is conducting exploratory natural gas drilling in block 12, the Aphrodite field. Cypriot media has been reporting intense interest in the auction process from oil and gas giants from Holland, Norway, the UK, the US, China, Russia and France. Indeed, Phileleftheros reported that one scenario is that Russian companies – such as Gazprom and Lukoil – will be awarded the western blocks while French interests – Total S.A. – will be given permission to explore the eastern blocks, which border fields in the Lebanese EEZ, where Total, given France’s influence in Lebanon, will expect to be involved. In fact, Politis reports, the Cyprus government will use entirely geopolitical considerations when it decides the companies it will allocate 
EEZ exploitation licences to, in a strategy designed to isolate Turkey and neutralise its threats.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Won't the Americans want a bigger piece of the pie?

John Akritas said...

Exxon is one of the US companies rumoured to be interested in bidding for a block. There are 12 blocks to go round; so I guess it's a balancing act for the Cypriot government. Let's not forget, though, Christofias' predilections, which are Russian – especially given the $2.5bn loan Russia has made to Cyprus to stop it going the way of Greece – nor that France, under Sarkozy, has been strenuously cultivating its relationship with Cyprus. Our tactic seems to be to get all the big players involved, which is common sense.

Anonymous said...

I thought Christofias' predilections were Soviet? ;-) Good, informative article btw.

John Akritas said...

Christofias has never come to terms with the demise of the Soviet Union and prefers instead to believe that Russia is just a continuation of his long-lost workers' paradise. Actually, getting the Russians involved is the right policy; so it's best if we keep Christofias in the dark about what happened to the USSR.

Anonymous said...

Where's Greece then? No frigates, corvettes, subs, or any other sort of boat on the way from the motherland? Is Cyprus relying on the French, Russians and Israelis now for their security? Don't get me wrong I'm a committed Hellene, but these Kalamarades are something else, they need to grow a pair and show us some proper support. Little old Cyprus seems to be leading the way here.

Michael

John Akritas said...

You're not wrong, Michael. Not only is Greece duty bound to protect Cyprus because we're all Greeks, aren't we? But there's also the question of Greece being a guarantor power under the 1960 constitution, which gives Greece a legal right and obligation to defend the island. Having said that, I don't think Cyprus would be making any of these moves without Greece's go ahead and backing. And let's imagine big finds are made and Cyprus does become rich. Where's all that money going to go? How many shopping malls and luxury hotels can be built in Cyprus? I suggest that a lot of the excess Cypriot money will end up being invested in Greece, which gives Greece a vested interest in seeing Cyprus exploit its natural resources.

Hermes said...

Cyprus and Greece also have a Single Defence Doctrine. Greece has been conducting exercises with Israel over the last two years and some F-16s will be in Israel soon to conduct further exercises. These exercises are not only for Greece's protection but also for Cyprus. Also, on the diplomatic front Greece has been talking to the Egyptians not to repudiate their agreement with Cyprus.

Hermes said...

The problem for me is that what if Turkey creates a problem with Cyprus/Greece over Cypriot EEZ or Castellorizo? What is going to be our response? We will respond like we did with Imia? Do we have the elites to respond appropriately? Can we respond where there are more and more talks of cuts to the defence budget in Greece and Cyprus?

And can we rely on the response of the other powers? We have had experiences of assurances from the Great Powers and just ask the Pontians, Cappadocians, Ionians, Thracians and Cypriots how that ended? More recently, the despicable Saakashvilli had some sort of support from the West (advised by some of the people advising Papandreou) and he ended up eating his tie. And would the same powers that tried to destroy Cyprus in 2004 come to our rescue today? Is it simply gas? Because they have found Turkey to be a better strategic partner over the last 40 years.

Not that I disagree with Cyprus's initiatives and Greece/Cyprus's closer co-operation with Israel but what happens if things start not going to plan?

John Akritas said...

The other thing is this: what if Greece were to send frigates and so on down to Cyprus? Wouldn't this be falling into Turkey's trap of escalating the situation into a crisis? Rationally, there's no reason for the Greek navy to get involved at this stage – even if sending a ship or two to Cyprus might be good for Cypriot morale.

Anonymous said...

Guys and girls,
Greece has already stated that an attack on Cyprus is an attack on itself. What more do we want, exactly?

lastgreek said...

Greece has already stated that an attack on Cyprus is an attack on itself. What more do we want, exactly?

Cyprus has been under attack now going on 4 decades.

But, of course, you are being sarcastic ... right?

Hermes said...

Its good to see Helleno-centric writer, Kosta Hadziantoniou being recognised by the EU for his novel Agrigento:

http://www.euprizeliterature.eu/

Here he talks about Hellenism:

http://vimeo.com/29720660