Posts Tagged ‘Cyprus’

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet To Hold Missile Drill Off Syria’s Coast Ahead Of Trump-Putin Summit

July 9, 2018

According to the latest Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), the Russian Navy’s Mediterranean task force will host naval exercises off the coast of Syria for several weeks. The starting point of the naval exercise will begin on July 11, just five days before Russian and US Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump meet in Finland’s capital of Helsinki to discuss the complicated situation in Syria.

 

The location of the war drill will be in the Eastern Mediterranean between the Syrian coast and the Southern part of Cyprus across the port of Tartus, which will be reserved for 10 to 20 warships conducting missile drills from July 11, 12, 18, 19, 25 and 26, the Russian News Agency TASS reported.

During the exercise, the airspace will be shut down from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Moscow time. The NOTAM mentioned that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is the “only legitimate and competent authority to provide air traffic and aeronautical informational within the limits of the advisory airspace.”

“REFERENCE IS MADE TO THE NOTAMS A1006/18 AND A1007/18 DATED 05 JULY 2018 ISSUED BY THE GREEK CYPRIOT ADMINISTRATION OF SOUTHERN CYPRUS CONCERNING RUSSION NAVAL EXERCISE AND THE IMPLEMENTATION DCTS AND ROUTE PLANNING. WE WOULD LIKE TO STATE THAT THE GOVERNMENT OF THE TURKISH REPUBLIC OF NORTHERN CYPRUS IS THE ONLY LEGITIMATE AND COMPETENT AUTHORITY TO PROVIDE AIR TRAFFIC AND AERONAUTICAL INFORMATION SERVICES WITHIN THE LIMITS OF ERCAN ADVISORY AIRSPACE. THEREFORE NOTAMS A1006/18 AND A1007/18 DATED 05 JULY 2018 ISSUED BY THE GREEK CYPRIOT ADMINISTRATION OF SOUTHERN CYPRUS SHOULD BE CONSIDERED NULL AND VOID,” the NOTAM read.

TASS mentioned that the warships would conduct missile drills with a variety of precision-guided weapons. In particular, Russian frigate Admiral Essen, a guided missile frigate of the Admiral Grigorovich class – based with the Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol, armed with the Kalibr missile system (NATO codename: ‘Sizzler’) will be participating in the exercise.

Quoted by TASS, the press office of the Russian Black Sea Fleet reported on June 18, Buyan-class corvettes Grad Sviyazhsk and Veliky Ustyug armed with Kalibr missile systems started their journey to the Mediterranean Sea from Sevastopol.

With a dozen or more Russian warships mainly from the Black Sea Fleet gather off Syria’s coast for future missile drills ahead of the Trump-Putin summit, it seems as Moscow is sending the CIA and the Pentagon a stern warning if relations after the summit falter.

Let us hope that does not happen because Trump’s desire to remove US forces from Syria before October will enable him to declare the proverbial “Mission Accomplished” in defeating Daesh or Islamic State for the upcoming US mid-term elections.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-07-08/russias-black-sea-fleet-hold-missile-drill-syrias-coast-ahead-trump-putin-summit

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Cyprus hails EU support against Turkey on oil, gas search

March 27, 2018

AFP

© PIO/AFP/File | Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has hailed as “unprecedented” the European Union’s condemnation of Turkey for blocking his government’s search for offshore oil and gas

NICOSIA (AFP) – Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades hailed as “unprecedented” Tuesday the European Union’s condemnation of Turkey for blocking his government’s search for offshore oil and gas.

The statement from EU leaders on Thursday came after Turkish warships blocked an Italian drillship for weeks from exploring for gas in part of the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

“For the first time, there is an unprecedented strong condemnation of Turkey?s continuing illegal activity in the eastern Mediterranean, which of course includes the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus,” Anastasiades told an oil and gas forum.

“I would like to express my satisfaction with the strong expression of solidarity by the EU,” he added.

Anastasiades accused Turkey of “gun-boat diplomacy” for “physically obstructing Italian energy firm ENI from reaching its planned drilling area in exploration Block 3 of our Exclusive Economic Zone?.

The block is one of seven claimed by the breakaway Turkish Republic of North Cyprus in the absence of a deal to end the island’s four-decade division.

Turkey back the Turkish Cypriot claim and also disputes part of other blocks on its own account saying they form part of its own continental shelf.

But Anastasiades, whose government is internationally recognised and a member of the EU, argued that the real aim of Turkey was to control energy supply routes in the region.

“Turkey’s actions are aimed at achieving the country’s long-term goal of becoming an exclusive energy supply hub for the European Union… to control the natural gas supply from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe.?

He said Turkey’s argument about protecting the rights of Turkish Cypriots were “unfounded”.

“We have repeatedly and publicly stated that the natural resources of the Republic of Cyprus belong to all Cypriots — Greek and Turkish Cypriots alike,” he said.

Cyprus expects more exploratory drills, as US giant ExxonMobil with Qatar Petroleum plan two drills in the second half of this year.

The standoff over oil and gas exploration risks undermining efforts to relaunch reunification efforts after the collapse of a UN-backed peace conference last year.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops occupied its northern third in response to a coup in Nicosia backed by the military junta then ruling Greece.

Repeated rounds of talks on reunifying the island as a bizonal, bicommunal federation have all failed.

Turkey’s Erdogan, EU chiefs meet to mend eroded ties

March 26, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File / by Raziye Akkoc | Erdogan is expected to press strongly that Turkey considers visa liberalisation a priority.

VARNA (BULGARIA) (AFP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday meets the leaders of the EU’s top bodies for a potentially stormy encounter that will seek ways to repair an increasingly fractured relationship.

European Union President Donald Tusk and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker will talk with Erdogan at the Bulgarian Black Sea resort of Varna with a litany of problems clouding their discussions.

Topics including the crackdown in Turkey after the July 2016 failed coup, Turkish demands for visa liberalisation and the near-endless saga of Ankara’s own EU membership bid are expected to loom high.

And while all the leaders were hoping at least a more harmonious mood music would come out of the working dinner, a row over Greece and Cyprus added a new shadow days before the talks.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council, said it was expected to be “a very difficult meeting”.

But both sides — with a joint interest in improving security cooperation and economic relations — will also not want the talks to fail.

“The Varna summit will provide a platform to re-launch the dialogue between the two parties, even though no real breakthrough is expected in concrete terms,” said Jana Jabbour, professor of political science at Sciences Po university in Paris and the author of a book on Turkish foreign policy.

– ‘Mixed feelings’ –

Temperatures were raised after EU leaders last week condemned Turkey’s “illegal actions” towards Greece and Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea.

Ankara hit back at the “unacceptable comments” and said the EU had lost its objectivity on Cyprus, which is divided between the Greek-majority internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus and the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north.

The statement on Thursday by the 28 EU members meeting in Brussels condemned Turkey over Ankara’s arrest of two Greek soldiers and its promise to prevent the Greek Cypriot government from exploring for oil and gas.

Turkish EU Minister Omer Celik said Turkey could not accept such statements by the EU.

“This issue will be raised in Varna, where we hope to have a wide-ranging discussion on EU-Turkey relations and on the way ahead,” Tusk said.

Juncker said he was “looking with mixed feelings towards the summit because the differences in views between the EU and Turkey are many”.

But, he added “we will have a frank and open debate with President Erdogan”.

Ankara and Brussels had in March 2016 agreed a controversial deal to stop the flow of migrants, in what was seen as a landmark in cooperation and which Turkey hoped would yield visa free travel to Europe.

So far this incentive has not been realised and Erdogan is expected to press this strongly in the talks.

“Turkey considers it (visa liberalisation) a priority”, Jabbour told AFP.

But, she added, “it would be delusional to believe that the EU would grant Turkey concessions on this matter.”

– Looser partnership? –

Brussels has repeatedly criticised the post coup crackdown which has seen nearly 160,000 people arrested, including dozens of journalists.

Turkey, for its part, accused Brussels of failing to show solidarity after the coup and appears set on forging a strong partnership with President Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

In contrast to the evening meeting with the EU leadership, Putin is expected to make a full two-day visit to Turkey early next month.

Ankara’s long-stalled bid to join the EU will also be discussed during the summit, but Western diplomats and analysts agree meaningful steps are unlikely.

Even Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey did not have “any expectations right now from the EU regarding the membership process.”

Nonetheless, Erdogan has for now dropped from speeches his threats to reimpose the death penalty in Turkey, a move that would automatically end the EU membership bid.

Next month the bloc will release its latest progress report, which is “bound to illustrate a substantial regression” in Turkey, Marc Pierini, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe and a former EU ambassador to Turkey, said in a study.

During a visit by Erdogan, French President Emmanuel Macron said earlier this year Ankara should settle instead for a looser “partnership”, after suggesting no progress was possible.

burs-raz/sjw/wdb

by Raziye Akkoc
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A banner showing Turkey's President Erdogan and Russian President Putin during a protest against the Turkish offensive targeting Kurds in Afrin, Syria outside the U.S. embassy in Nicosia, Cyprus. March 12, 2018

U.S., Turkey and Russia — U.S. Warships Cause Worry in the Black Sea

March 12, 2018

OPINION

By Hakkı Öcal
Daily Sabah

We, the people of Turkey, look mostly into the cover rather than reading what’s inside. When the USS Carney (DDG-64), a guided-missile destroyer of the United States Navy, passed through the Istanbul Strait on Feb. 17, 2018 with the gunner’s finger on the trigger of his 12.7 mm caliber Browning Machine Gun (BMG) M2 (Ma Deuce) and when his picture with the picturesque Bosporus in the background was shared on social networks, we looked at it and wondered why a “friend and ally” America was doing the same thing the Russians did two years ago.

море черное uss carney

USS Carney (DDG-64), a guided-missile destroyer of the United States Navy, passes through the Istanbul Strait to the Black Sea

Nowadays the Russians sail through the straits at ease, no gunner on the deck. On Twitter some anti-government and anti-American journalists expressed their opinion to the extent that Turkey should leave the NATO and declare war on them.

If we, the veterans of the old and the new media, paid a little more attention and saw the text next to the photograph, we would have noticed that the show of the finger-on-trigger was not meant us, but it was for the Russians.

Peter Halvorsen, commanding officer of the destroyer said, “The USS Carney entered the Black Sea to conduct maritime security operations and enhance regional maritime stability, as well as strengthen combined readiness and naval capability among NATO allies and partners. The U.S. Navy has a history of building relationships with our partners in the Black Sea, which both demonstrates our combined commitment to regional security and enhances overall peace and stability.”

What Halvorsen calls a demonstration of commitment to regional security and enhancing overall peace is actually an effort to “desensitize Russia” to the presence of U.S. military forces in the Black Sea, according to some anonymous military officials who talked to CNN. Those officials told CNN that “it is important to increase the frequency of U.S. activity in the area and desensitize Russia to the presence of U.S. military forces” in the Black Sea.

The very next day, Russia announced its own naval deployments to the area, and a Russian frigate and two patrol ships entered the Black Sea for a series of exercises. The unnamed U.S. naval officers continued to tease the Russians on CNN, “You get ships up in the Black Sea that makes the Russians feel more threatened.”

However all of this is no joke according to Tyler Durden of the Zero Hedge Report: it shows us that the Black Sea is the new area of contention for the U.S. and Russia. He reminded readers that since the military escalation in Ukraine in 2014, there have been several skirmishes between Russian and U.S. forces.

On the other end of the Anatolian straits lies the Mediterranean, as the majority of nations call it the middle sea (for Turks and Arabs, it is the white sea). According to Ardan Zentürk of the Star daily newspaper, the Congressional alliance between the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Hellenic-American Leadership Council (HALC) is now flexing its muscles after Turkey chased away some exploration vessels from its exclusive economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean region.

Mr. Zentürk sees cooperation budding between Israel, Greece and multinational U.S. corporations interested in the natural gas sources in the area. He writes that Cyprus and the eastern Mediterranean region is the next area that is going to get warmer.

After the USS Carney entered the deep and cold waters of the Black Sea, the U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, announced that some of its ships would conduct “a full spectrum of naval operations, in concert with joint, allied and interagency partners, to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.” CNN had reported that the U.S. Navy’s ships were headed to the contented exclusive economic zones.

We, the people of Turkey, are now reading the subtext buried in this picture. The friend, an ally, is putting his finger on a much larger trigger this time around.

https://www.dailysabah.com/columns/hakki-ocal/2018/03/12/new-frontier-the-mediterranean-or-black-sea

Egypt Signals That $15 Billion Gas Deal Will Hinge on Israeli Debt Concessions

February 26, 2018

Haaretz

Israel, however, insists no understandings to forfeit the $1.8 billion in compensation have been reached

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File photo: Tamar Israeli gas-drill platform in the Mediterranean Sea.
File photo: Tamar Israeli gas-drill platform in the Mediterranean Sea.AHIKAM SERI/AFP

Egyptian officials have signaled that a giant $15 billion deal to buy natural gas from Israel hinges on Israel’s backing down from rulings awarding it $1.8 billion or more of compensation when Egypt cut off its supply of gas to Israel in 2012.

In Israel, however, officials deny that there has been any agreement on compensation. “Israel hasn’t given up on the debt and the matter did not come up for discussion during talks on the Leviathan export deal to Egypt that was signed [last] week,” Israel’s Ministry of Energy said.

Likewise, state-owned Israel Electric Corporation, which won arbitration in 2015 awarding it $1.76 billion for the loss of Egyptian gas, similarly denied any concessions had been made. “The company is not aware of any concessions on the debt. There won’t be any backing down on the debt. The company continues to seek to collect it,” IEC said in a statement

At issue is a signed agreement announced by Texas-based Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek Drilling a week ago to export 64 billion cubic meters of gas over 10 years from the Tamar and Leviathan reservoirs to the Egyptian company Dolphinus.

The deal was celebrated in Israel as the first step to wider energy relations between Israel and Egypt to pool the two countries’ gas reserves and export them jointly to Europe or other markets. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed it as a way of cementing strategic ties with Cairo.

But the reaction to the agreement in Egypt has been cooler and top officials signaled it would be contingent on resolving the IEC arbitration ruling. In addition, earlier this month East Mediterranean Gas, the company that built the pipeline to deliver the Egyptian gas to Israel, won a preliminary ruling from a Cairo-based arbitrator for compensation of $1.03 billion.

“We reached an agreement to receive part of the gas in Egypt via its pipelines and this is part of the resolution to the arbitration,” Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail told reporters in Cairo last Thursday when asked about the EMG case.

He said an understanding had also been reached with IEC but declined to give more details.

His remarks echoed those of Egyptian Energy Minister Tariq al-Mulla who was quoted last week by Turkey’s Anadolu news agency as saying the gas deal hinged on unspecified “arbitration between the two countries” being settled.

An international arbitration court in Geneva ruled in 2015 that Egyptian state energy companies must compensate IEC after Egyptian gas supplies were cut off — first by a spate of terrorist attacks on EMG’s pipeline and then in 2012 by Cairo’s decision to break the contract.

The ruling caused Cairo to break off talks about importing gas from Israel. However, they were apparently revived sometime during 2016 on parallel governmental and business tracks. Last September, the Egyptians said the two sides had agreed that IEC would forgive $500 million of the debt it’s owed.

A senior Israeli government source, who asked not to be identified, told TheMarker that he didn’t expect Egypt would agree to pay the debt and compared it to Israel’s refusal to pay the Iranian government compensation decided upon by an international arbitrator.

In 2016, Switzerland’s highest court ordered Israel to pay Iran around $1.1 billion plus interest in a decades-old dispute over a secretive oil pipeline company predating the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The source said that Egypt’s failure to pay the compensation wouldn’t affect electricity rates in Israel since IEC had already written off the debt as unrecoverable and had incorporated it into rates over the last six years.

In response to news of the Israeli-Egyptian gas deal last week, Cypriot Energy Minister Georgios Lakkotrypis said he expected to sign a similar pact with Egypt in the next few weeks to export gas. The island’s Aphrodite field is close to Leviathan and is also owned by Noble and Delek.

However, Israeli sources cast doubt on an imminent deal, saying that the startement was designed to distract attention from Egypt’s closer relations with israel. “They have been talking about a deal for Aphrodite with the Egyptians for years and it’s not happening,” said one source, who asked not to be named.

Cyprus accuses Turkey of blocking ship again in gas exploration standoff — Is Turkey Becoming More Lawless?

February 23, 2018

 

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said that Cyprus was determined to press ahead with its plans for oil and gas exploration despite the intervention of the Turkish Navy  in blocking an Eni-chartered drillship. (Reuters)
ATHENS: Cyprus accused Turkey on Friday of threatening to use force against a drillship chartered by Italy’s Eni, in a standoff over hydrocarbons rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
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There was no immediate reaction from Turkey, which has vowed to prevent Greek Cypriots from exploring for oil or gas around the ethnically-split island and says some areas of Cyprus’s offshore maritime zone fall under its jurisdiction.
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On Feb. 9, the Turkish navy on maneuvers in the Mediterranean stopped the Saipem 12000 vessel on its way to drill for gas in the waters off Cyprus, triggering a diplomatic standoff which has underscored tensions in the region over competing claims for offshore resources.
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 Turkish warships stop Italy’s ENI rig in waters off Famagusta: Greek Cypriot reportsTurkish warships on manoeuvers in the Mediterranean Sea blocked the oil exploration vessel Saipem 12000
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Deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos told the Cyprus News Agency on Friday the ship was heading to the same area, when five Turkish vessels interrupted its course.
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“The drillship was halted by five Turkish warships and after threats of violence launched (by the Turkish side) and the threat of a collision with the drillship … the drillship was compelled to return back,” he said.
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Turkey, which does not have diplomatic relations with Cyprus, this week extended military exercises in the eastern Mediterranean to March 10.
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The Saipem 12000 vessel is currently on its way to Limassol where it is expected to stay for a few days, the agency said. Eni said on Thursday it was likely the ship would have to be moved in the coming days, probably to Morocco.
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Cyprus will officially protest to international forums over the latest incident, Papadopooulos said.
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Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades was expected to discuss the issue with European Union leaders who are meeting in Brussels on Friday. He said this week that Cyprus was determined to press ahead with its plans for oil and gas exploration.
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Eni and France’s Total discovered this month a promising natural gas field off Cyprus, which they said looked geologically similar to the mammoth Zohr field off Egypt.
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Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 after a brief Greek-inspired coup. Peace talks collapsed last year. Greek Cypriots, who are exploring for natural gas, run Cyprus’s internationally recognized government. Turkish Cypriots run a breakaway state in north Cyprus recognized only by Ankara.

 

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Cyprus urges Turkey to end gas standoff, resume peace talks

February 21, 2018

 

Cyprus’ energy minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, right, and Cyprus’ President Nicos Anastasiades attend a meeting with the leadership council of the island, at the Presidential palace in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. Cyprus’ president Anastasiades says an offshore hydrocarbons search will carry on as planned despite strong opposition by Turkey and the ethnically split island nation’s breakaway Turkish Cypriots. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
NICOSIA: Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades on Wednesday urged Turkey to lift its blockade of offshore gas exploration that would benefit both the Greek and Turkish Cypriots once the island is reunited.
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“The rhetoric by Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots is unjustified and unfounded, and it does not serve the best interests of the Cypriot people… The planning of the Republic of Cyprus in the field of energy will proceed,” Anastasiades said in a statement.
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“I publicly call on Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community to immediately respond to my call to return to the negotiating table, provided this is preceded by the termination of the violation of the sovereign rights” of Cyprus in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), he said.
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Anastasiades, the Greek Cypriot leader, said the island’s untapped energy riches belonged to the state and would be shared with the Turkish Cypriots once the island was reunified.
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“Our goal is to fully explore Cyprus’s hydrocarbon potential, in the best terms possible, so as to maximise the benefits for all the people of Cyprus,” he said.
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Cyprus is embroiled in a standoff with Turkish warships blocking an Italian drillship from exploring for gas in the divided island’s politically sensitive waters.
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 Turkish warships stop Italy’s ENI rig in waters off Famagusta: Greek Cypriot reportsTurkish warships on manoeuvers in the Mediterranean Sea blocked the oil exploration vessel Saipem 12000
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned foreign energy companies not to “overstep the mark” in the Mediterranean after Turkey’s warships blocked the Italian vessel.
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The standoff over exploiting energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean risks further complicates stalled efforts to reunify Cyprus following the collapse of UN-brokered peace talks last year.
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Italy’s energy giant ENI said its ship had been ordered to stop by Turkish ships earlier this month over “military activities in the destination area” as it was on course to start exploring in block 3 of Cyprus’s EEZ.
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Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the northern third of the island in response to a Greek military junta-sponsored coup.
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While the Greek-majority Republic of Cyprus is internationally recognised, the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognised only by Ankara.
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Turkey and Cyprus have long argued over the eastern Mediterranean, and Ankara has been stringent in defending the claims of Turkish Cypriots for a share of energy resources.
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Cyprus expects more exploratory drills, with US giant ExxonMobil also planning two drills in the second half of 2018.
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Turkey ups the ante over Cyprus drilling (Update 4)

TCG Gokceada — Turkish warship

Tillerson In Turkey Hoping To Ease Tensions Between Erdogan, U.S.

February 15, 2018

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shake hands before their talks at the presidential palace in Ankara, Turkey. Tillerson started a two-day trip to Turkey amid growing tensions between the two NATO allies. (AP)
ANKARA: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Turkey on Thursday for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seeking to ease tensions between the NATO allies that reached new heights over Ankara’s ongoing operation inside Syria.
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A prime task of President Donald Trump’s top diplomat will be to allay Turkish anger over US policy in Syria, a dispute which has ignited the biggest crisis in bilateral ties since the 2003 Iraq war.
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The former chief of energy giant Exxon Mobil, who is on a multi-leg tour of the Middle East, headed to talks with Erdogan at his presidential palace after landing in Ankara from Beirut.
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Tillerson will meet Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday morning.
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Turkey’s operation against the People’s Protection Units (YPG) Kurdish militia in the Afrin region of Syria has added a potentially insurmountable new problem to an increasingly rough bilateral relationship.
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Analysts said the level of tension was similar to 2003 when Turkey refused to let US troops operate from its territory for the Iraq war, or even the aftermath of Ankara’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974.
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Turkey’s operation against the YPG, which Ankara blacklists as a terror group, has seen Turkish troops fighting a militia which is closely allied with the US in the battle against Daesh militants.
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Speaking in Beirut hours before his meeting with Erdogan, Tillerson denied Washington ever gave heavy weaponry to the YPG and thus could not gather up such arms, as desired by Ankara.
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“We have never given heavy arms to the YPG so there is none to take back,” Tillerson said.
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Erdogan earlier this month accused Washington of sending in thousands of truckloads and planeloads of weapons to the YPG in Syria, asking why the US still had a presence there if the militants had been defeated.
Moreover, Turkey said on Thursday it had demanded the US expel the YPG from forces it backs in Syria.
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“We demanded this relationship be ended, I mean we want them to end all the support given to the Syrian arm of PKK, the YPG,” Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli told reporters in a briefing in Brussels, a day after meeting US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on the sidelines of a NATO meeting.
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“We demanded this structure be removed from SDF,” he said.
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And Erdogan has further upped the ante by warning US troops to leave Manbij, a YPG-held town east of Afrin, raising fears of a clash between the allies.
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He also warned that the US risked being dealt an “Ottoman slap” in Syria — a backhand thwack which, according to legend, could kill an opponent at a stroke.
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For Ankara, the YPG is a branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is blacklisted as a terror outfit by the US and the EU.
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But for Washington, the YPG is an ally against Daesh militants and Turkey’s operation is a distraction from efforts to ensure the extremists are permanently defeated.
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Speaking ahead of the visit, a senior State Department official said “eyes had to be on” the defeat of Daesh.
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“It’s complicated enough. Let’s not make it more so.”
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But Cavusoglu this week warned Washington that ties were at a “critical point” at which relations would “be fixed or… completely damaged.”
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The squabble over Syria is, however, just one of a litany of issues burdening Turkey-US relations.
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Ties were damaged after the failed coup of 2016 with Turkey stung by a perceived lack of US solidarity and angered by Washington’s refusal to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Pennsylvania-based cleric blamed for ordering the putsch.
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There is still no US ambassador to Turkey after the departure of John Bass last year, and it was only in December that the two sides ended a row following tit-for-tat suspensions of visa services.
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Last month, Ankara reacted furiously to the conviction in New York of Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla on charges of violating sanctions against Iran.
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And Washington has expressed concern that several of its citizens — as well as at least two Turkish employees of US missions — have been caught up in the post-coup crackdown.
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Last week, NASA scientist Serkan Golge, a dual national, was jailed for seven-and-a-half years for being a member of Gulen’s movement, with the State Department saying he had been convicted “without credible evidence.”
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Another case is that of US pastor Andrew Brunson, who ran a church in Izmir, who has been held on similar charges since October 2016.
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Such tensions have hit Turkish public opinion, with 83 percent holding unfavorable views of the US, a Center for American Progress poll showed this week.

Greece Says Won’t Tolerate Border Challenges After Turkish Collision

February 15, 2018

Feb. 15, 2018, at 6:06 a.m.

 President Erdogan of Turkey Visits Greece — Shakes hands with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras 7 December 2017 — First Turkish state visit to Greece in 65 years — But it got off to rocky start observers said…

Greece Says Won’t Tolerate Border Challenges After Turkish Collision

Reuters

By George Georgiopoulos and Renee Maltezou

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece will not tolerate any challenges to its territorial integrity, its prime minister said on Thursday, days after Turkish and Greek coastguard vessels collided close to disputed islets in the Aegean Sea.

Each side blamed the other for Monday’s collision off an islet known as Imia in Greek and Kardak in Turkish. They came to the brink of war in 1996 in a sovereignty dispute over the islets.

Seeking international support, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras underlined that Greece’s border was also that of the 28-nation European Union, and his foreign minister briefed the head of NATO and the U.S. military chief on Turkey’s “provocative behavior”.

“Our message, now, tomorrow and always, is clear … Greece will not allow, accept or tolerate any challenge to its territorial integrity and its sovereign rights,” Tsipras told an audience at the shipping ministry.

“Greece is not a country which plays games.”

Tsipras told coastguard officers: “Challenges and aggressive rhetoric against the sovereign rights of an EU member state are against the EU in its entirety.”

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry denied the Turkish vessel was at fault. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told Tsipras in a phone call on Tuesday that Greece needed to take necessary measures to decrease the tension in the Aegean Sea, a source from Yildirim’s office said.

Turkey and Greece, NATO allies, have long been at odds over issues from ethnically split Cyprus to airspace and overflight rights [L8N1Q33Y6] and relations have worsened since Greece blocked the extradition of eight Turkish soldiers that Ankara accuses of involvement in 2016’s failed coup.

In Brussels, Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos said he had briefed U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.

“I had the opportunity to show them material of proof that dismisses Turkish claims that (the incident at Imia) was an accident,” Kammenos said in a statement.

“Turkey is provoking and violating Greek and EU waters, it proceeds with acts that violate any notion of maritime law and is coming close to (causing) an ‘accident’ in the Aegean. It has full responsibility.”

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou and George Georgiopoulos; Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Cypriot officials say cannot resume UN-backed peace talks while Turkey blocks energy exploration

February 15, 2018

NICOSIA (AFP) – Cypriot officials said Thursday that stalled UN-backed peace talks to reunite the island cannot resume while Turkey blocks energy exploration off its coast.

Cyprus is embroiled in a standoff with Turkish warships blocking an Italian drillship from exploring for gas in the island’s politically sensitive waters.

President Nicos Anastasiades, the Greek Cypriot leader, met UN special representative Elizabeth Spehar in Nicosia to raise the issue and discuss next steps after the peace talks collapsed in Switzerland last summer.

 Turkish warships stop Italy’s ENI rig in waters off Famagusta: Greek Cypriot reportsTurkish warships on manoeuvers in the Mediterranean Sea blocked the oil exploration vessel Saipem 12000

“The president again conveyed, that depending on developments, he is ready to take more concrete initiatives provided we are not experiencing such behaviour in the republic’s exclusive economic zone,” government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides told reporters.

“You can not hold negotiations and at the same time have such movements in the EEZ,” he added.

Spehar said that Anastasiades “expressed his concerns with respect to what is happening with the hydrocarbons issue. These are concerns that we understand and which we are conveying to New York”.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned foreign energy companies not to “overstep the mark” in the eastern Mediterranean after Turkish warships blocked the Italian drilling vessel.

The standoff over exploiting energy resources in the region risks further complicating stalled efforts to reunify Cyprus.

Turkey ups the ante over Cyprus drilling (Update 4)

TCG Gokceada

Italy’s energy giant ENI said its ship had been ordered to stop by Turkish ships last week over “military activities in the destination area” as it was on course to start exploring in block 3 of Cyprus’s EEZ.

Nicosia said Wednesday that it is counting on behind-the-scenes EU diplomacy to end the standoff with Turkey.

Cyprus, a member of the European Union, has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the northern third of the island in response to a Greek military junta-sponsored coup.

While the Greek-majority Republic of Cyprus is internationally recognised, the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognised only by Ankara.

Turkey and Cyprus have long argued over the eastern Mediterranean, and Ankara has been stringent in defending the claims of Turkish Cypriots for a share of energy resources.

Cyprus expects more exploratory drills, with US giant ExxonMobil also planning two drills in the second half of 2018.