Posts Tagged ‘gas’

China-Philippines oil exploration deal out by September

August 2, 2018

The draft framework for the planned joint exploration by the Philippines and China for oil and gas in the West Philippine Sea is expected to be out by September, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Tuesday.

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“No formal exchange of draft yet, but hopefully this August, latest September, we’ll be at that stage when we can exchange drafts,” Cayetano said during a press briefing before leaving for Singapore, where he will be attending a conference of Southeast Asian foreign ministers.

Cayetano said the two countries have already listed principles to be included in the framework, and are looking at the draft agreeement “line by line.”

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After they finish the draft, Cayetano said, they will sit down with the Department of Energy (DOE) and the London-listed Forum Energy Plc, to see if there are provisions to be further ironed out.

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Forum Energy earlier obtained a contract to drill wells in the disputed Reed Bank. Businessman Manny Pangilinan’s PXP Energy Corp. has controlling interest in the company.

“We will not say yes unless it’s as good as, or better than the Malampaya,” Cayetano said.

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Under Service Contact 38 of the DOE, the Philippine government and the Malampaya consortium have a 60-40 sharing of revenues for the gas deposits off the shore of Palawan.

Cayetano said a joint exploration between two countries is very much doable.

“We just don’t want to do it in a way that will damage any of future entitlements or claims, and number two, we have to make sure that it passes the scrutiny of the Supreme Court,” he said.

“We’re rushing it cause Filipinos only have a one-term six-year presidency, and if you want to get it done the best time to do it is within your first four years,” he added.

The territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea has put on hold attempts at oil exploration, particularly in the Reed Bank, with the Philippine government issuing a moratorium in 2014.

In 2011, Chinese patrol vessels almost rammed a Forum Energy contracted survey ship at the Reed Bank.

A Hague-based international arbitral tribunal ruling in 2016, which China refused to recognize, affirmed Philippine sovereign rights in its 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone, including the Reed Bank, which is 85 nautical miles off Palawan’s coast.

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Photo: Chinese bomber over Scarborough Shoal

On the code of conduct in the South China Sea

Another deal between China and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is being eyed to be out by October.

The Philippines is the country coordinator in negotiations between China and the ASEAN for a legally binding code of conduct (COC) to identify what claimant countries can and cannot do in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

China claims nearly the entire sea, while Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam also have claims in the area.

“The hope is that by November when our leaders meet, we will have it. But of course with Singapore as chairman and many of the members work, medyo [slightly] mitigate your expectations,” Cayetano said.

China and the ASEAN already signed in 2002 a Declaration on the COC of Parties in the South China Sea, but they have yet to agree on its implementation. Last year, the COC’s draft was completed.

However, Cayetano claimed rules may be coordinated among countries regarding actions in the South China Sea.

“You don’t have to wait for the code-of-conduct (COC) to start implementing some of the things that you want in the COC,” it said.

China has drawn flak for building artificial islands and military structures in the South China Sea, as well as for tensions with Filipino fishermen in June.

http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2018/07/31/DFA-Alan-Peter-Cayetano-China-West-Philippine-Sea.html

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China has seven military bases near te Philippines
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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

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Philippines: Former President Against Proposed Sharing of South China Sea Oil, Gas With China — Philippines has no obligation to share its resources

August 1, 2018

Former president Benigno Aquino III opposes the proposed 60-40 sharing of natural resources between the Philippines and China in the joint exploration of the West Philippine Sea.

Aquino said the area is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the country has no obligation to share its resources with the Asian giant.

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Benigno Aquino III

He again shared a “joke,” China’s supposed motto, which was often used during his term. What started as a joke, he said, seems to be coming true under the Duterte administration.

“Exclusive economic zone ang pinag-uusapan eh. Parang wala tayong obligasyon na makihati sa kanila. Noong panahon ko may joke eh, sabi raw nila: ‘What is ours is ours. What is yours, we share.’ So ngayon, parang nagiging totoo na ata ito,” Aquino said.

(We’re talking about our exclusive economic zone. We have no obligation to share it with them. During my time, there was a joke. China said: “What is ours is ours. What is yours, we share.” So now, it seems this is coming true.)

“Balikan lang natin fundamental dito: exclusive ito sa atin, meron ba tayong obligasyon na bahagian sila?” he added. (Let’s just go back to the fundamental issue here: This is exclusively for us. Do we have an obligation to share it with China?)

For Aquino, who brought China to court over the disputed waters, the Asian neighbor cannot be trusted. He said the proposed 60-40 scheme favoring the Philippines could end up being disadvantageous to the country.

“Ang bargaining position, 60-40. Baka naman sa dulo nito ay baliktad, baka sila 60, baka 70… Sa halip na wala silang karapatan, biglang ngayon eh baka naman kailangang amuhin sila sa dulo. At para mapaamo, kailangang mas malaki ang parte nila,” the former president said.

(The bargaining position is 60-40. But in the end, it might become the opposite. They might get 60% of the share or 70%. Instead of them having no rights, all of a sudden we might have to woo them in the end. And to woo them, we have to give them a larger share.)

“Bantayan natin na sana ‘di maging gano’n ang mangyari (Let’s be vigilant that it won’t happen),” he added.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano previously said China is “open” to the joint exploration proposal, adding that the draft framework might be out by September.

President Rodrigo Duterte himself made the proposal in a speech last April.

“Precisely I said, with the issue of the [South] China Sea, leave it at that, it’s geopolitics. Anyway, China has offered joint exploration and joint operation. And I said, maybe, we give you a better deal, 60-40,” Duterte said.

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Malacañang earlier spoke of two areas in the West Philippine Sea being considered for the joint activity – Service Contracts 57 (Calamian) and 72 (Recto Bank).

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio warned, however, that the 1987 Constitution prohibits joint development within the Philippines’ EEZ.

Maritime expert Jay Batongbacal also said allowing joint development in such an area could be seen as “inconsistent” with the arbitral ruling won by the Philippines in 2016.

In its ruling, the Permanent Court of Arbitration said “there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources, in excess of the rights provided for by the Convention, within the sea areas falling within the ‘9-dash line.'” (READ: FAST FACTS: South China Sea dispute)

Despite the ruling, China continues its military buildup in the West Philippine Sea and harassment of Filipino fishermen in areas declared by the decision as common fishing grounds. – Rappler.com

https://www.rappler.com/nation/208651-noynoy-aquino-warns-vs-west-philippine-sea-joint-exploration

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China has seven military bases near te Philippines
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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Europe Likely to Disappoint Trump as Big Buyer of U.S. LNG

July 26, 2018

At least for now, Russian gas wins competition in Europe

President Donald Trump’s vision of Europe becoming a “massive buyer” of U.S. liquefied natural gas is likely to crash into the reality that Russia is a cheaper supplier for now.

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Europe is consuming record volumes the fuel delivered by pipelines from its traditional and geographically closer partners, Russia and Norway. Production has been increasing in both of those countries, and the government in Moscow has been promoting vast fields in Siberia that can ship to Europe at a lower cost than the U.S.

On top of that, Asia, which buys almost three-quarters of global LNG, lures most of the super-chilled fuel from global plants, including in the U.S. Europe in turn may see slowing gas consumption in its power sector. Those factors will make it difficult for U.S. suppliers to get a major foothold in Europe, regardless of what Trump said after his meeting with European Union President Jean-Claude Juncker in Washington on Wednesday.

“It is interesting that we see talk from Trump of tariff-free, free-trade economics, yet in the same breath we see talk of Europe becoming a massive buyer of LNG when ultimately it is dictated by global prices,” said Nick Campbell, a director at Inspired Energy Solutions.

Trump and U.S. State Department officials have spent months promoting U.S. LNG exports in Europe, raising concerns that the continent faces security risks from drawing more Russian supplies. They’ve attacked Russia’s latest big gas pipeline, the Nord Stream 2 link that will circumvent the traditional transport corridor through Ukraine in order to supply Germany, Europe’s biggest gas market.

Europe’s response to the American LNG pitch has been lukewarm. Existing terminals on the continent are underused when it comes to imports for domestic consumption. European terminal regasification utilization rates averaged 27 percent last year, compared with 73 percent in China, which is acting on its pledges to battle air pollution and reduce coal use.

Supplies that arrive by pipeline from Russia and Norway are more competitively priced — and more abundant. The Russian pipeline monopoly Gazprom PJSC is confident U.S. LNG supplies to Europe “will never catch up with and will never surpass” Russian gas exports to the region, Chief Executive Officer Alexey Miller said in June. The chart below shows what gives him such confidence.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin in May brushed off Trump’s challenge, calling him a “good and strong entrepreneur” while at the same time tightening his grip on the European market. The economics of the market are working in Putin’s favor.

The full-cost based breakeven price of U.S. LNG supplies to Europe stands now at $6 to $7.50 per million British thermal units. That compares with $3.50 to $4 for Russia’s pipeline gas based on Gazprom’s current taxation, according to estimates of Alexander Kornilov, an analyst at Aton LLC in Moscow.

If Europe’s spot price remains at current levels or grows, its market will drive more interest from North American suppliers, Kornilov said. However, Gazprom has repeatedly said that Russian gas is above any competition in the European Union due to its low production costs. Russia will “protect its turf at all costs” because it can undercut other suppliers and U.S. LNG will always be far more expensive, said Manas Satapathy, a managing director for energy at Accenture Strategy.

Russia isn’t the only threat to U.S. suppliers. Qatar is the world’s biggest LNG producer and the largest supplier of the fuel into Europe. Nigeria and Algeria also feed the market. In addition, Norway’s production has been expanding, with a network to ship the fuel by pipeline already well developed.

Another undercurrent that will blunt U.S. inroads: Climate change. The EU pushing hard to boost renewables and slash fossil fuel use. Germany and Britain aim to scrap coal entirely, and gas will become the target after that. While in the past officials talked about gas as a bridge fuel toward a greener future, they’re now starting to think about how to generate electricity without any emissions.

“Without the ‘gas bridge,’ Europe won’t see increasing demand for U.S. gas,” said Phil MacDonald, spokesman at London environmental lobby group Sandbag.

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Until Juncker’s meeting with Trump, European officials have given an equivocal reception to the U.S. suggestion that its LNG is a solution to energy security concerns. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended the Nord Stream 2 project while also planning the nation’s first LNG import terminal, saying it wants to diversify suppliers.

Trump’s LNG Sales Pitch Gets Lukewarm Reception in Germany

Poland is more eager to take U.S. LNG. It signed deals last month to buy the fuel from Venture Global LNG Inc. and Sempra Energy. The Eastern European nation wants to turn to other sources of supply after its contract with Russia’s Gazprom expires in 2022.

Even so, the market for both gas and LNG is expanding. Some places like Spain and Portugal don’t have strong links with Russian pipelines and have ample LNG import capacity. Equally, no country wants to depend on just one source, giving the U.S. an opportunity to make sales.

“One thing to note is imports may increase naturally in due course as more projects in the U.S. come online and Australian projects serve Asia more easily as well as lower demand for LNG from Japan as it returns its nuclear reactors,” said Campbell at Inspired Energy. “Potentially Trump will get his way, but through structural changes in the sector rather than sheer force of personality.”

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-26/europe-is-likely-to-disappoint-trump-as-big-buyer-of-u-s-lng

Trump knows Europe needs America more than America needs Europe

July 12, 2018

The most lethal demagogue is one with a grasp of underlying reality

By EDWARD LUCE

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President Donald Trump with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during their meeting on Wednesday © AP

Punch-drunk Europe would do well to study the fate of American liberals. The more Donald Trump denigrates Nato, the greater outrage he provokes in Europe. Moral certainty feels good. But it can bring on intellectual blindness. Time and again, Mr Trump’s domestic critics have chosen righteous indignation over analytic clarity.

Women could never vote for Mr Trump, Democrats reassured themselves. Then a majority of white women did. The US would never withdraw troops from Europe, says Brussels. Yet Mr Trump could do precisely that. Which side of the Atlantic would have the most to lose?

Mr Trump knows more than his critics give him credit for. He invents his own facts. But he instinctively grasps other people’s bottom lines. Mr Trump’s portrayal of Nato is profoundly error-ridden. It is also fundamentally correct. On the first, America accounts for nothing like 70 per cent of Europe’s security budget. Its actual share, as the International Institute for Strategic Studies has set out, is a fraction of that. Five per cent of America’s defence budget goes directly on Europe. Nor is Europe “delinquent” on its obligations. Since pledging four years ago to meet the 2 per cent of GDP target within a decade, Europe’s Nato members have increased their spending by $87bn in real terms, which is more than double what the US spends annually on European security. So much for Mr Trump’s relationship with the facts.

But quietly correcting Mr Trump — even shrieking it from the rooftops — will do nothing to change his mind. Technocracy cannot compete with diatribe. The most lethal demagogue is one who grasps an underlying reality. Mr Trump knows that Europe needs America more than America needs Europe. Every time Mr Trump meets a Nato partner, or listens to many of his advisers, he is told his actions are weakening US security. That is true. America’s power is magnified by alliances. Wrecking them reduces Washington’s global clout. But the bigger loser is Europe. Its survival depends on America’s guarantee. A resurgent Russia poses deep threats to Europe’s eastern borders, its internal cohesion and ultimately its prosperity. With America’s continued presence, Europe can rebuff Vladimir Putin’s probing. Without it, Europe would be dangerously exposed.

Mr Trump needs no adviser to tell him that America’s position gives it greater room for complacency. The US is flanked by the world’s two largest oceans — the Atlantic and the Pacific. In Mexico and Canada, it also has two of the world’s most benign neighbours, even taking into account Mr Trump’s constant needling. Geography is Mr Trump’s bottom line. Yet Europe is doing its best imitation of Hillary Clinton. Like Mrs Clinton, Europe’s leaders believe that reason and public sentiment are on their side. Like her, they overestimate both.

Mr Trump has shown that unreason — the constant repetition of caricature and lies — can alter public opinion. Worse, big shifts in worldview can be pulled off quickly. Two years ago, most Republicans believed firmly in Nato. Today just 40 per cent of Republican voters think America should remain a member of the transatlantic alliance. More than half of Republicans say that Mr Trump’s relationship with Mr Putin is a good thing for America. So much for the electorate’s wisdom. What about Europe’s voters?

A year ago, Europe’s leaders could be forgiven for misjudging Mr Trump. There is no precedent for what he is doing. All his predecessors, including Barack Obama, called on America’s Nato partners to increase their defence spending. None of them would have dreamt of undermining European liberal democracy. Yet that is what Mr Trump is doing.

On Monday, he travels to Helsinki to meet Mr Putin. He joins Victor Orban, Hungary’s president, and champion of “illiberal democracy”, and Matteo Salvini, Italy’s leading populist, in Mr Putin’s growing western fan club. The first time they met, which was almost exactly a year ago, Mr Trump agreed to set up a US-Russia task force on cyber security. That was like a chicken agreeing with the fox to patrol the night. Mr Trump’s advisers persuaded him to climb down. No one knows what the two leaders informally agreed.

Nor will we know what they discuss on Monday. Mr Trump has insisted on a one-to-one meeting before the formal summit. But recent history should enable Europe’s leaders to guess the contours of their agenda. At his latest allies in mid-America, Mr Trump has repeatedly called Mr Putin a “fine” man. He has also described America’s allies as “worse than our enemies”.

Liberal America famously took Mr Trump literally but not seriously. Europe should not repeat that mistake.

edward.luce@ft.com

https://www.ft.com/content/ffb85db2-85a9-11e8-a29d-73e3d454535d

NATO grapples over key policies in shadow of Trump’s tough talk

July 12, 2018

NATO leaders will seek to dampen a febrile atmosphere as their summit wraps up Thursday with talks on Afghanistan and Ukraine, after US President Donald Trump stung allies with a shock demand to double defence spending.

The summit in Brussels is shaping up as the alliance’s most difficult in years, against a backdrop of growing unease about the threat from Russia and deepening transatlantic tensions in fields ranging from trade to energy.

©AFP | Trump has set a bombastic tone for the talks, unleashing a barrage of criticism against European allieset a bombastic tone for the talks, unleashing a barrage of criticism against European allies, including a clash with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The US president, who has said his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week “may be the easiest” part of his European tour, kicked off the NATO meeting with a blistering attack on Germany, calling it a “captive” of Moscow because of its gas links.

He also demanded NATO members up their defence outlay to four percent of GDP, from the current target of two percent within 10 years agreed at a 2014 summit in Wales.

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev confirmed that Trump had made the demand and asked what it meant for the future of the alliance that has been the bedrock of European security for 70 years.

“NATO is not a stock exchange where you can buy security. NATO is an alliance of sovereign countries united by strategic targets and common values,” he told reporters.

But all 29 NATO leaders including Trump backed a joint statement committing themselves to greater “burden sharing” and to the alliance’s founding commitment that an attack on one member is an attack on them all — with no mention of the four percent.

– Friends like these –

The mood was already prickly ahead of the summit, prompting a terse exhortation from the European Union’s President Donald Tusk for Trump to “appreciate” his allies and reminding him that Europe had come to its aid following the 9/11 attacks.

Trump has explicitly linked NATO with a transatlantic trade row by saying the EU shut out US business while expecting America to defend it.

The US leader has also singled out Germany for particular criticism over its defence spending.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, spends just 1.24 percent, compared with 3.5 percent for the US.

Trump has taken particular aim at the proposed Nord Stream II gas pipeline, which is set to run from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea.

“Everybody’s talking about it all over the world, they’re saying we’re paying you billions of dollars to protect you but you’re paying billions of dollars to Russia,” he said Wednesday at a breakfast meeting with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.

Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, shot back that she knew what it meant to be under Kremlin domination and was glad a united Germany was now able to “make our own independent policies and make our own independent decisions”.

The pair later met for a one-on-one meeting and while Trump insisted they had a “very very good relationship”, their frosty body language suggested otherwise.

– Kremlin concerns –

European diplomats are wary of a repeat of last month’s divisive G7 in Canada, when Trump clashed with his Western allies before meeting Kim Jong Un at a summit, where he praised the North Korean leader as “very talented”.

Trump will meet the Russian leader in Helsinki on July 16 for their first summit amid an ongoing investigation in the US into possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia.

There have been fears that Trump, keen to be seen to make a breakthrough with the Kremlin strongman, might make concessions that would weaken Western unity over issues like Ukraine and Syria.

Trump heads to Britain on Thursday, where the government is in crisis over Brexit and where tensions with Russia have spiked after London blamed Moscow for the death this month of a British woman from contact with the Novichok nerve agent.

The substance is the same military-grade toxin that nearly killed a former Russian spy and his daughter in an earlier attack that Britain also blamed on Moscow.

AFP

Will the South China Sea Become a Chinese Lake?

July 4, 2018

Twelve days at sea on a French warship provide occasion to ponder what lies ahead for the disputed waterway.

Published on: July 3, 2018
Jonas Parello-Plesner is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
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https://www.the-american-interest.com/2018/07/03/will-the-south-china-sea-become-a-chinese-lake/
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Chinese military assets in the South China Sea. 

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Vietnamese Anti-China protesters hold placards which read ‘The country will not forget – Johnson South Reef – 14th March, 1988’ during a gathering to mark the 28th anniversary of the Spratly Islands clashes between Vietnam and China at a public park in Hanoi March 14, 2016.

REUTERS/KHAM

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Palestinian youths set Gaza’s own gas line on fire at weekly fence protests

May 5, 2018

7,000 Gazans protest along security fence, fly dozens of ‘firebomb kites’ into Israel, fail to breach border; Hamas claims hundreds injured, no fatalities; two IDF drones go down

Palestinian medics and protesters evacuate a wounded man during a protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, on May 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinian medics and protesters evacuate a wounded man during a protest at the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, on May 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
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A Palestinian man prepares an incendiary device attached to a kite before trying to fly it over the border fence with Israel, on the eastern outskirts of Jabalia in the Gaza Strip, on May 4, 2018. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
A Palestinian man prepares an incendiary device attached to a kite before trying to fly it over the border fence with Israel, on the eastern outskirts of Jabalia in the Gaza Strip, on May 4, 2018. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
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A picture taken on May 4, 2018 from the southern Israeli kibbutz of Nahal Oz across the border with the Gaza Strip shows a general view of clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians, with land scorched by incendiary kites seen in the foreground (bottom) and smoke from burning tires set ablaze by protesters in the background. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
A picture taken on May 4, 2018 from the southern Israeli kibbutz of Nahal Oz across the border with the Gaza Strip shows a general view of clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians, with land scorched by incendiary kites seen in the foreground (bottom) and smoke from burning tires set ablaze by protesters in the background. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
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Palestinian protesters run for cover from teargas fired by Israeli troops during a protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, on May 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinian protesters run for cover from teargas fired by Israeli troops during a protest at the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, on May 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
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Palestinian paramedics carry a wounded man during a demonstration at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 4, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)
Palestinian paramedics carry a wounded man during a demonstration at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 4, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)
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A Palestinian man uses a slingshot during weekly protests along the Gaza border near the city of Khan Younis on May 4, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)
A Palestinian man uses a slingshot during weekly protests along the Gaza border near the city of Khan Younis on May 4, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)
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Palestinians take part in weekly clashes along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, east of Jabaliya, on May 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)
Palestinians take part in weekly clashes along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, east of Jabaliya, on May 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)
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Palestinians pose behind kites before trying to fly them over the border fence with Israel, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 4, 2018. Palestinians taking part in weekly clashes on the border have adopted a new tactic of attaching firebombs to kites to fly over the border fence into Israel. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)
Palestinians pose behind kites before trying to fly them over the border fence with Israel, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 4, 2018. Palestinians taking part in weekly clashes on the border have adopted a new tactic of attaching firebombs to kites to fly over the border fence into Israel. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

Dozens of Palestinians broke into the Gaza side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and the Hamas-run Strip on Friday evening, setting fire to the gas pipeline that supplies fuel to the Strip, the army said.

The Gazans, who did not break through to the Israeli side of the border, trashed their own supply infrastructure, Israeli military officials said.

The incident came amid the protests along the Gaza border, the sixth week of demonstrations, as part of the “March of Return.” At least  431 Palestinians were injured, Gaza officials said, as some 7,000 took part in the demonstrations, flew dozens of kites with petrol bombs into Israel, hurled stones at soldiers and tried to breach the border fence.

The IDF shared video of the Kerem Shalom incident, during which Palestinians broke into the Palestinian side of the crossing and damaged pipelines carrying gas and oil into Gaza, which already suffers from a large energy shortage.

“This is a cynical act that harms the welfare of Gaza residents and the humanitarian efforts carried out by Israel and many other countries,” the army said.

Kerem Shalom is the main crossing for goods and humanitarian aid to pass into Strip from Israel.

Elsewhere, there were two mass attempts to damage and breach the security fence around the central Gaza Strip during the protests, the army said.

Israeli soldiers who were called to the scene of those attempts forced back the demonstrators using less-lethal riot dispersal weapons and live fire.

“Two attempts by a group of rioters to damage the fence and cross into Israeli territory from the central [Gaza] Strip were thwarted a short while ago,” the army said on Friday evening.

In total, 431 Palestinians were injured during the protests, including some 70 from live fire, the Hamas-run Gaza healthy ministry said.

There were no Palestinian deaths reported as of Friday evening, unlike in previous weeks. The IDF does not confirm Palestinian casualty figures, but it put the number of protesters at 7,000.

Thousands of Palestinians protest along the Gaza border with Israel, in the sixth ‘March of Return’ demonstration on May 4, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

During the Friday demonstrations, two small Israeli army drones crashed in the Gaza Strip. The military said the drones were not being used in an operational capacity before they fell, but were filming the protests. From video footage, at least one of the drones appeared to be a civilian model in use by the Israel Defense Forces.

It was not clear what caused the drones to crash. Palestinians claimed to have downed them.According to the army, the 7,000 or so demonstrators were spread out among five main locations along the Gaza Strip. The protest began following the mid-afternoon prayers.

Though the first two weeks of demonstrations saw tens of thousands of protesters, the past month has seen far lower levels of participation.

Protesters rolled burning tires toward the Gaza security fence and threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at the Israeli troops on the other side of the border, the army said.

Palestinians hurl burning tires at the Gaza security fence during the sixth ‘March of Return’ demonstration on May 4, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The soldiers responded to the more violent demonstrators with less-lethal riot dispersal weapons, like tear gas, and also with live fire in some cases.

An army spokesperson said soldiers used live rounds against “main instigators” in accordance with its rules of engagement.

According to the Hamas health ministry, 48 Palestinians have been killed since protests and clashes began along the Gaza border on March 30 and hundreds of others have been wounded from gunfire.

Hamas, an Islamist terror group which seeks to destroy Israel, acknowledged that five of its terrorists were among the fatalities after the first Friday demonstration, but has since refrained for acknowledging whether its men are among the dead. Israel has identified other fatalities as members of terrorist groups.

Illustrative: Black smoke rises from tires burned by Gaza protesters at the border with Israel, with Israeli soldiers seen in the foreground, April 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Israel says it only opens fire when necessary to stop infiltrations, damage to the fence and attacks.

Organizers of the protests said part of Friday’s plans included attempting to fly dozens of kites, some carrying firebombs, over the border fence.

A Guy Fawkes mask strapped to his belt and a Palestinian flag around his neck, Abdullah Issa, 22, said they hoped to send dozens of kites with Molotov cocktails over the fence.

“We will put Molotov cocktails on the Israeli farms,” Issa told the AFP news agency.

“They have no solution for the kites.”

According to the IDF, there was only one case of a kite making it over the border.

An Israeli soldier holds a kite flown over the border from Gaza in a tactic recently used by Palestinian protesters to start fires in Israeli on the Israel-Gaza border near the kibbutz of Kfar Aza on April 24, 2018. (AFP/Menahem Kahana)

These kites, dubbed “terror kites” by some in Israel, have posed a significant challenge to Israeli security services.

The fires started by these kites have destroyed some 800 dunam (200 acres) of wheat and barley fields, according to local Israeli farmers, who turned to the Tax Authority for compensation as “victims of terrorist activities.”

The military has yet to devise a comprehensive response to the threat posed by these kites. For now, soldiers track the kites after they cross the border and attempt to extinguish the resulting fires before they spread.

This has not always been successful. On Wednesday, dozens of acres of grassland were burned in the largest fire yet caused by these kites.

The “March of Return” is an eight-week-long set of protests that began on March 30 and is due to continue until at least mid-May. Though they were initially planned as non-violent demonstrations, the protests were apparently coopted by the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza and whose leaders have said their goal is to erase the border and “liberate Palestine.”

A Palestinian man uses a slingshot during weekly protests along the Gaza border near the city of Khan Younis on May 4, 2018. (Said Khatir/AFP)

These weekly, sometimes daily, demonstrations have often turned violent, with Palestinians throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli troops on the other side of the border, who retaliate with live fire and less-lethal riot dispersal weapons like tear gas and rubber bullets.

The military has faced international and domestic criticism over its use of live fire, with the United Nations and European Union calling for an independent investigation rejected by Israel.

Nickolay Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, poses for a photo during the INSS conference in Tel Aviv, January 30, 2018 (Jack Guez/AFP)

Last week, the UN’s special envoy to the region, Nickolay Mladenov, told the UN Security Council that both Israel and Hamas had to do more to prevent the deaths.

“There has also been an increasing number of dangerous incidents at the fence, including the planting of improvised explosive devices — at least one of which has detonated — the throwing of Molotov cocktails, and attempts to breach the fence,” he said.

“Israel must calibrate its use of force and minimize the use of live fire. Lethal force should be used only as a last resort,” he continued. “Hamas and the leaders of the demonstrations must keep protesters away from the Gaza fence and prevent all violent actions and provocations.”

Earlier this week, the IDF defended its rules of engagement in Israel’s High Court of Justice, saying that they were in line with both domestic and international law.

Last Friday, four Palestinians were killed and over 300 hurt during a particularly violent demonstration along the border, which included a large-scale rush of the security fence.

Mourners carry the body of Palestinian journalist Ahmed Abu Hussein, who died after being shot by Israeli troops while covering a border protest during his funeral in the Jebaliya refugee camp, Gaza Strip, Thursday, April 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Israel says Hamas uses the marches as cover for terrorist attacks.

“In recent weeks, we’ve once again seen the complexity of the situation, when our forces found themselves facing mass protests that served as cover for terrorist actions, attacks on soldiers, attempts at kidnapping, attacks on military posts, and attempts to infiltrate [Israeli] towns,” IDF chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said Tuesday.

Israel has repeatedly expressed concern over the possibility of a mass breach of the Gaza fence, in which Palestinians would stream across with terrorists among them, wreaking havoc. Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar has vowed in the past that protesters would “breach the borders and pray at Al-Aqsa,” referring to the major Muslim shrine in Jerusalem.

The demonstrations are due to continue until mid-May, which will mark the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, planned move of the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and Nakba Day, a commemoration of what Palestinians consider to be the expulsion from their land.

These “March of Return” protests are so named for the “right of return” demanded by Palestinians from Israel, which would allow them to go back to their native towns and cities.

At previous peace talks, the Palestinians have always demanded, along with sovereignty in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Old City, this “right of return” to Israel for Palestinian refugees who left or were forced out of Israel when it was established. The Palestinians demand this right not only for those of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are still alive — a figure estimated in the low tens of thousands — but also for their descendants, who number in the millions.

No Israeli government would ever be likely to accept this demand, since it would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority state. Israel’s position is that Palestinian refugees and their descendants would become citizens of a Palestinian state at the culmination of the peace process, just as Jews who fled or were forced out of Middle Eastern countries by hostile governments became citizens of Israel.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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Philippines eyes joint exploration deal with China in South China Sea within months

April 9, 2018

Reuters

MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines is looking to seal a pact with China within a few months to jointly explore for oil and gas in a part of the busy South China Sea waterway claimed by both countries, a Philippine official said on Monday.

In February, the two countries agreed to set up a special panel to work out how to jointly explore for offshore oil and gas in areas both sides claim, without needing to address the touchy issue of sovereignty.

“We’re trying to see if we can achieve an agreement, hopefully within the next couple of months,” Jose Santiago Santa Romana, Philippine ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, told a news conference held on China’s island province of Hainan.

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Chinese coast guard vessels are frequently seen near the Philippines

There is political willingness to land a deal, but both parties could take as much time as needed to ensure the goals are met, Santa Romana said at the event, aired live on Facebook, adding that the Philippines aimed to boost its energy security.

Beijing claims most of the South China Sea, a key trade route with areas believed to hold large quantities of oil and natural gas. Parts of it are subject to competing claims from Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam, besides the Philippines.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday flew to China for the Boao Forum for Asia, and will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday.

Last month, the Philippines identified two areas in the South China Sea where joint exploration for oil and gas may be undertaken with China.

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China’s military bases near the Philippines

But any potential deals between Manila and Beijing should be agreed with a company and not the Chinese government, the presidential spokesman said.

The idea of joint development dates from 1986, but disputes and the sovereignty issue have kept it from materializing.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague ruled that portions of the contested areas were part of the Philippines’ 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone, and Manila had sovereign rights to resources there. China refuses to recognize the ruling.

Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty and Clarence Fernandez

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China has militarized the South China Sea — even though they have no legal claim. This is Mischief Reef, now an extensive Chinese military base — one of seven Chinese military bases near the Philippines
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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

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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.

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