French Navy Conducted Exercise With Greek Cypriot Coast Guard

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French frigate F-711 Surcouf conducted an exercise with Greek Cypriot Navy. Photo: Official French Navy photo.

The French, La Fayette class frigate F-711 FS Surcouf conducted PASSEX with Greek Cypriot Navy on 21 January 2014.

The coast guard vessel CV-24 Onisilos was the Cypriot contribution to the exercise.

The Surcouf sailed from Larnaca at 8:30 Tuesday, Jan. 21 after three days of release operational on the island.
This is far from the coast with 14 on board Cypriot policemen and two consuls within a day of joint exercises with the Cypriot navy.
The morning started off with Panther for winching on patrol Cypriot Onisillos , escorting the Surcouf few hundred yard.

Once the Panther in flight, the helicopter Cypriot participant to exercise, AW-139, had a winch load on the platform helicopter Surcouf before filing a
response team of the Cyprus Police climbing rope who then made a VISITEX (method methodical tour of a building by a specialized team) of Surcouf.
Finally, to close the morning, the helicopter performed a basketful SAR winching a diver aboard Surcouf and different maneuvers aviation.

In the early afternoon, a “SAREX” or exercise “search and rescue” involving the search for a man overboard was conducted by helicopter Cyprus in
coordination with the Surcouf. The visiting team of Surcouf then, in turn, produced a VISITEX on Onisillos .

Warships In The Eastern Mediterranean

As the bulk of the Royal Navy’s Response Force Task Group passes through the Suez Canal, and Russia sending two more warships southwards, it is time to update the list of the ships in East Mediterranean

This is the list of the naval vessels in the region i.e. east of Crete:

Russian Navy:

  • 548 Admiral Panteleyev, destroyer
  • 127 Minsk, large landing ship
  • 142 Novocharkassk, large landing ship
  • 055 BDK-98, large landing ship
  • 077 Peresvet, large landing ship
  • 151 Azov, large landing ship
  • SSV-201 Priazove, intelligence gathering ship
  • PM-138, repair ship
  • MB-304, tug
  • Pechenga, tanker
  • 810 Smetlivy, destroyer – ETA 3 days
  • 152 Nikolay Filchenkov, large landing ship – ETA 3 days

US Navy:

  • DDG-52 USS Barry, destroyer
  • DDG-107 USS Gravely, destroyer
  • DDG-61 USS Ramage, destroyer
  • DDG-55 USS Stout, destroyer
  • LPD-17 USS San Antonio, amphibious transport dock
  • T-AO-195 USNS Leroy Grumman, supply ship

German Navy:

  • P-6126 FGS Frettchen, fast attack craft, UNIFIL
  • P-6129 FGS Wiesel, fast attack craft, UNIFIL
  • A-53 FGS Oker, intelligence gathering ship

Royal Navy:

  • L-3008 RFA Mounts Bay, auxiliary landing ship, Cougar 2013
  • L-3007 RFA Lyme Bay, auxiliary landing ship, Cougar 2013
  • L-15 HMS Bulward, landing ship, Cougar 2013
  • F-236 HMS Montrose, frigate, Cougar 2013

Brazilian Navy

  • F-45 União, frigate, UNIFIL

Bangladeshi Navy

  • F-18 BNS Osman, frigate, UNIFIL
  • P-911 BNS Madhumati, large patrol craft, UNIFIL

Indonesian Navy

  • 365 KRI Diponegoro, corvette, UNIFIL

Greek Navy

  • P-69 HS Ypoploiarchos Kristallidis, fast attack craft, UNIFIL

French Navy

  • D-621 FS Chevalier Paul, destroyer

Italian Navy

  • D-553 ITS Andera Doria, destroyer

Any additions and corrections to the list are welcomed.

The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 12)

After my first post of the ships in East Mediterranean, I have received numerous responses in forms of blog comments and tweets. I thank every one who contributed.

This is the list of the naval vessels in the region i.e. east of Crete:

Russian Navy:

  • 548 Admiral Panteleyev, destroyer
  • 127 Minsk, large landing ship
  • 142 Novocharkassk, large landing ship
  • 055 BDK-98, large landing ship
  • 077 Peresvet, large landing ship
  • 151 Azov, large landing ship
  • SSV-201 Priazove, intelligence gathering ship
  • PM-138, repair ship
  • MB-304, tug
  • Pechenga, tanker

US Navy:

  • DDG-52 USS Barry, destroyer
  • DDG-107 USS Gravely, destroyer
  • DDG-61 USS Ramage, destroyer
  • DDG-55 USS Stout, destroyer
  • LPD-17 USS San Antonio, amphibious transport dock
  • T-AO-195 USNS Leroy Grumman, supply ship

German Navy:

  • P-6126 FGS Frettchen, fast attack craft, UNIFIL
  • P-6129 FGS Wiesel, fast attack craft, UNIFIL
  • A-53 FGS Oker, intelligence gathering ship

Royal Navy:

  • L-3008 RFA Mounts Bay, auxiliary landing ship, Cougar 2013
  • L-3007 RFA Lyme Bay, auxiliary landing ship, Cougar 2013
  • L-15 HMS Bulward, landing ship, Cougar 2013
  • F-236 HMS Montrose, frigate, Cougar 2013

Brazilian Navy

  • F-45 União, frigate, UNIFIL

Bangladeshi Navy

  • F-18 BNS Osman, frigate, UNIFIL
  • P-911 BNS Madhumati, large patrol craft, UNIFIL

Indonesian Navy

  • 365 KRI Diponegoro, corvette, UNIFIL

Greek Navy

  • P-69 HS Ypoploiarchos Kristallidis, fast attack craft, UNIFIL

French Navy

  • D-621 FS Chevalier Paul, destroyer

Italian Navy

  • D-553 ITS Andera Doria, destroyer

Any additions and corrections to the list are welcomed.

The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 10)

There are a lot of things going on in the Eastern Mediterranean lately.

First: The Russians are here. The long, west bound voyage of the Russian Pacific Fleet task force has ended. The ships have arrived in the Med and are in Cyprus for a well deserved rest.The Udaloy class destroyer Admiral Panteleyev, the Dubna class tanker Pechenga and the Baklazhan class tug Fotiy Krylov docked in Limassol Cyprus while the Rophucha class landing ships Peresvet and Admiral Nevelskoi remained on the high seas.

Τhree Russian warships from the Pacific fleet docked at Limassol port this morning, in the first such exit from the Suez canal in decades. The destroyer Admiral Panteleyev is 165 metres long and the tanker Pechenga 130 meters, accompanied by the support vessel Fotiy Krylov.

Two other amphibian vessels are also in the Mediterranean but no docking license has been requested from Cyprus. The three warships sailed from their base in Vladivostok on March 19 and will remain docked for three days for refuelling and personnel rest.

The other warships of the other fleets are active too. The Black Sea Fleet, large landing ship Azov has conducted a training with the North Fleet destroyer Severomorks in the Aegean.

In the central Aegean large anti ship Northern Fleet “Severomorsk” and large landing ship BSF “Azov” trained to test the interaction on the performance of common tasks. Ships the joint maneuvers performed and conducted training of communications and radio communications. At the same time, studies have been conducted with the struggle for survival and a number of measures of search and rescue support.

Click here for photos of Admiral Panteleyev in Limasol.

Second: Cyprus realized that it needs some kind of a navy at least to police its off shore gas and oil drilling rigs and wells. For this they will need some OPV’s with good duration and sea keeping as their mission will be old fashioned constabulary work on the high seas.

Buy two warships offshore to enhance shortly Navy Command of the National Guard for surveillance purposes Cypriot EEZ, announces the Cypriot Defence Minister Fotis Fotiou, in an interview with the newspaper “Politis”. 

The minister states that it can not proceed with its investigation and excavation of hydrocarbons, although there are no safety requirements. 

Also notes that despite the difficult economic situation, we find ways of strengthening the defense capability of the Republic, while promoting and creating strategic alliances with several countries, particularly Israel, because of common interests in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Two years ago Greece wanted to hand over 3 newly decommissioned  Votsis (La Combatante IIA or Type 148 ) class fast attack craft to Cyprus for EEZ surveillance and protection of natural gas reserves in the region. But Cyprus declined this offer as the offered vessels were not in a good condition.  Their new political ally Israel offered the brand new Saar S-72 class. Interestingly the Israeli navy also needs some cheap ships with good sea keeping in order to police their off shore assess. So may be the Cyprus will be the next customer for Israeli warships.

The design of a new mini-corvette presented by Israel Shipyards during the international exhibition naval systems IMDEX 2013 held in Singapore from 14 to 16 May 2013.

The new mini-corvette called Saar S-72 and is essentially a design evolution of rocket type vessels Saar (Saar 4, 4.5 and 5). Developed with the primary purpose of satisfying the requirements of maritime patrol and surveillance of exclusive economic zones, both Israel and other countries.

Noting that the situation Israel Shipyards developed the mini-corvette Saar S-72 which puts inline between Saar 4.5 and Saar 5. As for the coastguard forces or civilian missions the same design (800 tons displacement) is offered as a patrol offshore Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV)

The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 7)

It is time again for another installment for a updates of the situation in Eastern Mediterranean:

In September Israel signed a security cooperation agreement with Greece, amid declining relations with Turkey. This was followed by the approval of a Greek Parliament committee to the purchase Rafael-made Spice 1000 and 2000 bomb precision upgrade kits at a cost of $155 million for 400 systems from Israel.

The official relations between the two countries is quite news but gets warmer by each passing day. Israeli defense minister Mr. Barak visited Athens last week.

Traditionally pro-Arab Greece, which did not officially recognize Israel until 1991, has stepped up efforts to attract investment and expertise to shore up its debt-struck economy.

The two countries are trying to “make up for lost time”, Greek Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said, asserting Greece’s “commitment to deepening the alliance with Israel … in the name of friendship, peace and stability for all the peoples of the region”.

He said their cooperation was “honest and sincere (and) not directed against anyone”, in a reference to Turkey, formerly a staunch ally of Israel but now on deteriorating terms with the Jewish state.

Athens is keenly interested in Israel’s economic rapprochement with traditional Greek ally Cyprus to develop undersea gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean.

The emphasis is mine.

Three months after this agreement, Israel will sign two accords with Bulgaria, during a two-day visit of the Bulgarian Defense Minister, starting tomorrow. It seems as if Israel is trying to increase its ability to influence Turkey’s neighbors. Well Israel is free to make deals with any country it feels suitable. But no other country in the region has the economic strength or strategic depth of Turkey. But the power struggle between the major countries of this regions seems to continue.

Anu Angelov will ink a deal on increasing cooperation on military training and another on closer ties between the two countries’ armaments industries, the Bulgarian defense ministry said.

The defence industry is an important employer in Bulgaria, exporting $380 million (300 million euros) worth of arms in 2011, according to a newspaper report, although the sector is a 10th of the size of during Soviet times.

Bulgaria and Israel enjoy close ties, helped by Bulgaria having been the only ally of Nazi Germany to have saved Jews from the death camps during World War II. Angelov will also visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and meet with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on his trip.

In the meantime last week a potential catastrophe of  biblical proportions was thwarted when the Cypriot authorities allowed a Russian ship loaded with  munitions to travel to Syria. As we all know it did not went well for the Cypriots, the last time Cyprus detained a ship carrying ammunition and explosives to Syria. It would not very wise, to confiscate another shipload of ammunition destined to Syria when the scars of of  last July’s deadly explosion at a naval base, in Mari, which killed 13 people are still open.

Russia’s apparent military support for the Syrian regime emerged on Wednesday when a Russian ship carrying 60 tonnes of arms for Damascus was stopped in Cyprus.

The MV Chariot, which set off from St Petersburg in early December, was forced to pull into the Greek Cypriot port of Limassol because of stormy seas. It had been on its way to Turkey and Syria, inspectors said.

Customs officials who boarded the ship discovered four containers. They were unable to open them but concluded that they contained a “dangerous cargo”. State radio in Cyprus went further, alleging that the Chariot was carrying “tens of tonnes of munitions”.

According to Russian media, the vessel may be transporting up to 60 tons of ammunition supplied by Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport through freight company Balchart.

Chariot stopped over in Cyprus for refueling and was allowed to set sail from the port of Limassol after its Russian owners agreed to change the destination to Turkey rather than Syria.

But the crew decided to revert to its original itinerary after leaving the Cypriot port, according to a source close to the operator of the ship.

There are rumors that when Greece receives next tranche of the bailout in March, expected to be €80 billion, there is a possibility that they will sign some new arms contracts, probably with France and Germany. The article of  Mr. Class Tatje, is a very interesting read. Well you did not believed that Germany and France were helping Greece because Merkozy is a good Samaritan?

The new austerity programme that Greece’s government has announced leaves hardly a Greek unscathed. Unless, that is, he works for the military or for the armaments industry.

In 2010 Greece’s budget for the military was almost seven billion euros. That is about three percent of its economic output, a figure surpassed among NATO countries only by the United States. The Ministry of Defence did, however, cut its arms procurement in 2011 by €500 million. But all this will mean, believes an arms trade expert, is that future needs will be all the higher.

Among Greece’s EU partners, only a few are calling publicly for the Greek rearmament programme to stop at once and for a long time into the future. One is Daniel Cohn-Bendit, leader of the Greens in the European Parliament. Europe’s hesitation, he believes, masks well-entrenched economic interests.

The main beneficiary of the Greek armament programme in Europe turns out to be its savings champion, Germany. According to the just-released Rüstungsexportbericht 2010 (2010 Arms Exports Report) the Greeks are, after the Portuguese – another state teetering on the verge of bankruptcy – the biggest customers for German armaments.

Spanish and Greek newspapers even spread a rumour that Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy reminded former Prime Minister of Greece George Papandreou during a summit meeting at the end of October to honour existing arms orders, and even sign new ones.

For the previous updates of Eastern Mediterranean:
The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 6)
The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 5)
The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 4)
The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 3)
The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 2)
The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 1)

The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 5)

The Eastern Mediterranean is no longer in the spot light of the public opinion. More important and pressing events such as the death of Gaddafi in Libya, the earthquake in Van, Turkey left the guess for oil in the Eastern Mediterranean in the shadows.

I think all actors of this quest are happy from this fact as they have more room for maneuver when everybody is looking somewhere else.

Turkey continues to look for hydrocarbon reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean. According to news reports a third ship R/V Oceanic Challenger will join the old and reliable R/V K Piri Reis and R/V Bergen Surveyor. The R/V Oceanic Challenger is rented by TPAO and will search for hydrocarbon reserves in a 1.100 square kilometers area off the coast of Alanya, Turkey.

Israel has sent warplanes and military helicopters for a “routine military exercise between the allies”. The Israeli diplomatic sources denied the allegations of Turkish media that these exercises were intended to send a message to Turkey. Air force exercises over our allies’ air space are routine for the Israeli military and there is no political agenda behind this,” an Israeli source said.

The Israeli embassy yesterday downplayed reports in the press claiming that military exercises were being conducted in Cyprus’ airspace in order to send a message to Turkey. 

“Air force exercises over our allies’ air space are routine for the Israeli military and there is no political agenda behind this,” an Israeli source said. 

Daily Phileleftheros said yesterday that Israel and Cyprus wanted to send a strong message to Turkey and were collaborating on military exercises. 

This source seems to ignore the fact that Cyprus has no air force!

Greek Cypriot President Demetris Christofias canceled his visit to the drilling platform «Noble Homer Ferrington» of Noble Energy in the “Plot 12″, due to his busy schedule.

The devastating earthquake in Van caused a temporary break in the diplomatic struggle between Turkey, Israel and Greece and could lead to a earthquake diplomacy like the one in 1999.

Israel offered humanitarian help and any help possible, anywhere in Turkey and at any time.

President Shimon Peres called Turkish President Abdullah Gul and offered his condolences following the 7.3 magnitude quake that struck southeastern Turkey earlier Sunday, that may have claimed the lives of up to 1,000 people.

“Speaking as a human being, a Jew and an Israeli who remembers and is aware of the depth of the historic relations between our two countries, I extend condolences on behalf of the entire (Israeli) people,” Peres said.

Peres added that “in this difficult hour, the State of Israel is ready to offer any assistance possible, anywhere in Turkey and at any time.”

Greece stated that she too was ready to provide all possible assistance to the Turkish authorities after a devastating earthquake that hit the Van region

Greece is prepared to provide all possible assistance to the Turkish authorities after a devastating earthquake that hit the Van region of the neighbouring country shortly after noon on Sunday, Greek foreign minister Stavros Lambrinidis told his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu in a telephone call later in the day.
Lambrinidis expressed his deepest condolences and the Greek people’s support for the Turkish people, and informed Davutoglu of the Greek citizens protection ministry’s readiness to provide all possible assistance to the Turkish authorities in dealing with the disaster.

Anybody who thinks that this dispute over the hydrocarbons is limited to Turkey, Greece and Israel is a fool. At a time when all governments are desperate to balance their budgets the real or perceived revenues from selling any hydrocarbon resources, puts people into a state of hysteria even countries with no major hostility in their history.

In the case of Italy, tensions with Malta have risen following the island’s publication of a tender for oil exploration in the Ionian Sea – in areas claimed by Italy. Meanwhile, Malta is also in dispute with Libya over its southern maritime borders. Furthermore, environmental concerns over a possible oil spill in the Mediterranean’s closed sea could also hamper upstream activity in the region.

With recent discoveries in the eastern Mediterranean and further ongoing exploration already taking place offshore Italy, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro (and possibly Greece in the near future), we believe that exploration on Italy’s side of the Ionian Sea is likely to attract significant interest. Nevertheless, this raises political tensions and a great deal of diplomacy will be required if serious disputes are to be resolved or avoided.

Be sure to follow EagleSpeak’s excellent blog. He is one of the most up-to-date information source about piracy among other topics.
For the previous updates of Eastern Mediterranean:
The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 4)
The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 3)
The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 2)
The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 1)

The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 4)

The ships around Cyprus. From Greek daily Kathimerini

Last weeks events especially the death of Mr. Jobs, turned the attention of the public’s focus away from the Eastern Mediterranean. The number of articles published, the war mongering and empty threads diminished with the public general interest. May be it is good so.

Now is the era of back office diplomacy. It is time to talk and to bargain. Time will tell us Now these behind the closed doors talk will end.

Last week after a port visit to Girne the Turkish research ship R/V Koca Piri Reis resumed its activities off Cyprus. It is reported that the ship is now directed to an area that is further away from the famous Block 12.

In the mean time one Italian research ship R/V Explora and one Norwegian research R/V Bergen Surveyer ships are in Eastern Mediterranean conducting operations. The area is full of research ships.

The Turkish Piri Reis exploration vessel will continue its seismic research efforts off southern Cyprus, according to a Turkish official speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Piri Reis has partially completed its work on Block 12, a contested zone where the Republic of Cyprus has also begun drilling for oil and natural gas.

While the Turkish media referred to a story published by the Greek Cypriot daily Phileleftheros, which said that two Israeli F-15 jets flew through the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot airspace and harassed the vessel, Piri Reis Captain Umut Yenice said, “We worked safely, and war jets watched us 24 hours a day,” after the ship completed its seismic data collection studies in a 445 square-mile zone around Cyprus under an exploration license from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus granted by the TRNC Council of Ministers to the state-owned Turkiye Petrolleri Anonim Ortakligi (Turkish Petroleum Corporation, or TPAO) to explore for oil and natural gas in the sea around Cyprus.

Yenice said, “We began seismic studies on 26 September, and we have completed our studies in an almost 445 square-mile zone in about ten days,” Istanbul’s Hurriyet newspaper reported.

A serious political crisis erupted in Cyprus last week. The President of Cyprus Christofias, is facing harsh criticism because of his role in a catastrophe of biblical proportions. The investigations panel founded after the confiscated Iranian ammunition in 98 standard size containers exploded severely damaging Cyprus’s main naval base and the adjunct main power station, put the blame on Mr Christofias as he was politically responsible.

PRESIDENT Demetris Christofias was responsible for allowing and keeping in Cyprus the confiscated munitions that exploded on July 11 killing 13 men, and for approving their storage at the Evangelos Florakis naval base in Mari, investigator Polys Polyviou concluded.

Polyviou also blamed defence minister Costas Papacostas and foreign minister Markos Kyprianou — both resigned in the aftermath of the blast — “but the main responsibility belongs to the President of the Republic, who heads the state and the government.”

“The President of the Republic in this case failed to take elementary measures for the security of Cyprus’s citizens. In this case I am not referring just to institutional responsibility,” Polyviou said. “The Executive, which is headed by the President of the Republic, failed miserably in taking the necessary measures to handle the matter.”

Reading out a summary of his 600-page plus report, Polyviou said the way in which the 98 containers had been stored was “completely irresponsible” and that their proximity to the power station had not been borne in mind, nor had the danger they posed to people working there.

“Even if the president did not sign a document choosing Mari and even if the National Guard and Defence Ministry decided to put them there the final decision belongs and is attributable to the president of the republic,” Polyviou said.

“The cargo was a time bomb placed in one of the most unsuitable places in Cyprus,” he added.

Mr. Christofias’ response the above mentioned accusations was not late and pretty much predictable: He denied that he was responsible and counter blamed the investigator Mr. Polyviou.

PRESIDENT Demetris Christofias yesterday defied calls for his resignation, rejecting the findings of an inquiry that he was personally responsible for the July 11 naval base blast that killed 13 people.

Christofias said he did not intend to resign but apologised to the relatives of the dead for the “mistakes, omissions and weaknesses” that led to the tragedy.

Christofias said the findings were not substantiated and accused investigator Polys Polyviou of overstepping his mandate by making suggestions and assessments concerning foreign policy.

“The President of the Republic categorically rejects that he has personal responsibility for the incident,” Christofias said last night in Limassol. “This conclusion … is not substantiated by the testimony and the material presented before the investigating committee. On the contrary.”

This accusations of guilt and responsibility for the Mari exposition is important as they may cause some important political changes in Greek part of Cyprus which in turn may effect the talks between the two communities in Cyprus and other activities around the island. But just before Cyprus gets the presidency for the EU I guess Mr. Christofias will do everything possible not to rock the boat too violently.

In a human gesture Israeli President Mr. Peres and Minister President Netanyahu send condolences to Turkey’s prime minister Mr. Erdoğan, after his mother died.

Israeli leaders have sent condolences to Turkey’s prime minister in a rare gesture of friendship at a time of deep strains between the former allies. Both President Simon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent their letters on news of the death of the mother of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.Peres wrote Sunday that the news “was received with much sadness,” and he empathized with “the boundless sorrow” of Erdogan’s loss.

Erdogan’s mother died Friday

I wonder what did Mr. Lieberman send if anything at all?

While dealing with the political fallout of the Mari explosion, Cyprus has handed the protection of its EEZ to Israel.

According to a report in Phileleftheros the Israeli Air Force has now ramped up patrols near the exploration zones, with “intensive activity south of Cyprus yesterday.” 

Meanwhile the Turkish side announced that it will make more moves in the Eastern Mediterranean. 

The paper reports that over the last 24-hours: “the Israelis have dominated the area and monitored all movement near the Cyprus platform”. 

Last week the Greek and Turkish defence ministers hold talks during the session of Defence ministers of countries of Southeastern Europe in Antalya. I guess it is a good thing that both parties have a formal communication channel despite the harsh words and all.

National Defence Minister Panos Beglitis, speaking after his first meeting with his Turkish counterpart Ismet Yilmaz, in the framework of the session of Defence ministers of countries of Southeastern Europe in Antalya on Sunday, said “I raised the issue of Confidence Building Measures, where sincerely we have achieved considerable progress, but the two sides can work even more to enable us to create a climate of mutual trust, to reduce the mistrust between the two sides.” 
Beglitis also said that in this meeting he conveyed the Greek government’s concern over the recent violations of Greek airspace on the part of Turkish aircraft. 

On naval deployments there was some action last week: The Greek frigate F-452 HS Hydra was send to Eastern Mediterranean. The ship will take part in NATO’s Operation Active Endeavor. Turkish frigate F-247 TCG Kemalreis returned from the Eastern Mediterranean. Her passage off the Cape Sounio caused much excitement in the Greek media so that The Greek Defence Ministry had to publish a public announcement about the covering of TCG Kemalreis‘ passage in the media. Here is the Google translation of this announcement:

ANSWER IN PRESS
On the occasion of unsigned newspaper “Republic” entitled “to come Sounion Turkish frigate”, which contains false and slanderous reports about the fighting ability of the Armed Forces, the Defence announces that:
The author of the article lies and slanders the Defence and Armed Forces referring to supposedly complete surprise and panic, when the official announcement is clearly indicated on the motion of the ship from the area of ​​Rhodes to and exit from the Strait of Kafirea. The Armed Forces of the monitoring system have routinely monitor all vessels operating within the area of ​​responsibility by taking action where necessary.

F-247 TCG Kemalreis in heavy weather. Photo from blog Strategy Reports

Stressed that no reporter from this newspaper attempted to contact the General Staff to update or crosscheck the information was of “fishermen.” We urge them not to come into contact with the Press Office of the General Staff to be informed in detail about how the Armed Forces attended the voyage of Frigate and given a detailed outline of the ship’s motion (path and time).
Inform the end the author of the article, that such reports affect primarily the staff of the Armed Forces, working 24 hours a day, in this case as one that was responsible for monitoring the voyage of the frigate from early morning until early evening Saturday hour.

For the previous updates of Eastern Mediterranean:
The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 3)
The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 2)
The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 1)

The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 3)

While Eastern Mediterranean continues to be hotspot new players are trying to enter the game. One of them is France. According to Greek Daily Kathimerini:

French energy companies ‘Total’ and ‘Gaze de France’ bought three-dimensional seismic data for gas deposits in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The cost of seismic data was over the 2 million euros for the company “Gaze de France” and over 1.6 million euros for the “Total”.

So after Russia, France decided to stuck its nose to this hotspot. For years France was one of the main armament supplier of Greek Cypriots. Therefore their arrival is not a big surprise. It is a known fact that Mr. Sarkozy does not have much foundnes for Turks with the French elections on the horizon he will try to boast his popularity by bashing Turkey. Therefore the involvement of the French energy companies into Cyprus should not be a surprise.

In the meantime Russia decided to bolster its presence  in the Mediterranean. Apparently the invisible nuclear submarines they have sent did not make any noteworthy deterrence so that Russia decided to send her biggest warship the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov to the region. An aircraft carrier is a very large ship ands its presence in not disputable unlike submarines.

The heavy air-capable cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov at the head of a squadron of Northern Fleet ships will set out on a long-distance voyage in November this year to accomplish combat duty missions in the Mediterranean Sea and the North-Eastern Atlantic, anofficer at the Main Naval Headquarters (MNH) of Russia told Itar-Tass on Thursday.

“The Admiral Kuznetsov will go to the Barents Sea on November 13 and moor up there to take on board an air wing — eight jetfighters Su-33, several MiG-29K, as well as two ASW helicopters Ka-27. The air wing will be drilling the tasks of takeoff and landing onto the deck of the carrier for a week.

“On November 19, the Admiral Kuznetsov will set out on a three-month cruise to the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. The large anti-submarine ship Admiral Chabanenko will be together with the cruiser among the carrier group of ships for screening and combat support purposes,” the MNH officer said.

Verification is under way of a list of foreign ports to be visited by the Russian ships, including an update in view of the developments in the Middle East and North Africa. The question of the Russian ships’ participation in joint exercises together with the navies of countries in the region is being worked out as well, the MNH officer pointed out.

The Turkish reasech vessel R/V Koca Piri Reis arrived its search zone south of Cyprus and started to work. According to Turkish daily Milliyet the area in which R/V Koca Piri Reis is working is adjundat to the famous Block 12. The reaserch ship is reported to be shadowed by two Turkish warships: the frigate F-491 TCG Giresun and the corvette F-504 TCG Bartın.

Since the early morning hours of Tuesday, the Turkish research vessel “Piri Reis” along with two Turkish warships, has been coming and going in plot No12, located at the marine area where, on behalf of the Cypriot government, the US company “Noble Energy International “is carrying out research to find gas.

There are rumors that Israeli fighters and military helicopters are providing company to the research ship R/V Koca Piri Reis. 

Israel Defense Forces jet fighters were scrambled toward a Turkish seismic research ship in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkish media reported on Friday, in what seemed to be a further escalation in the already fraying ties between the once longtime allies.

According to the report, cited by the Turkish daily Today’s Zaman and based on a report by the Turkish Vatan daily, two Israel Air Force F-15s took off to face the Turkish vessel on Thursday night, flying through the airspace of both Cyprus and Turkish Cyprus.

The report added that the warplanes approached the Turkish ship despite incessant warnings by forces in Turkish Cyprus, according to which the planes had breached the territory’s airspace.

Ultimately, the report indicated, Turkey launched two F-16 fighters to track the Israeli planes, at which point the IAF fighter jets returned to Israeli airspace.

The above mentioned rumors were quickly denied by all parties:

Reached by satellite phone onboard the Koca Piri Reis on Friday, second mate Cevdet Kılıçer said he could see a Turkish military ship closely following his vessel as it conducted surveys about 45 kilometres south of Cyprus.

He declined to name the Turkish warship, or give details about the naval protection for his team. But he said the crew of the research vessel remains in regular contact with their military counterparts, and feels reassured by the armed presence. “There are no other ships around here, we are alone, so we are just doing our job,” Mr. Kılıçer said.

The officer also seemed skeptical about a flurry of reports about Israeli and Turkish aircraft jockeying in the skies nearby. Two newspapers in Cyprus, the Phileleftheros and the Cyprus Mail, citing military sources, reported that two Israeli jets and a helicopter flew into the area this week. Turkish media ran similar stories, adding that Turkey scrambled its fighter jets in response, and the Israeli planes retreated back to their own airspace. Such activity could have happened too far away to be visible from the Koca Piri Reis; the second mate sounded genuinely puzzled about it.

“There is no aircraft around here,” Mr. Kılıçer said. “This is a safe place for us. Everything is alright now, we haven’t seen anything.” An Israeli military spokeswoman also denied the reports. “It didn’t happen,” she said.

In the mean time there reports from Greece that the problematic submarine  H/S Papanikolis seems to be rehabilitated.

Three objectives were set simultaneously in the sights of the battle system of the submarine Type 214 Papanikolis under operational testing of weapon systems and subsystems that are underway and more specifically, in the final stage.

In particular, a triple – while firing torpedoes. The purpose of this operational energy was to evaluate the performance of the system for control of three weapons from the submarine combat system.

According to reports, the test has successfully. Recalled that the system tries regularly and participates in all activities of the Fleet which is very important especially lately grown continuously challenges to security and defense of sovereignty of the country, especially in the eastern Mediterranean.

What the above quoted article tactfully skips to tell is the type of the torpedoes Papanikolis supposed to have fired. The issue about this submarine’s main armament is not solved. Initially Greek Navy decided to use Italian Black Shark torpedoes. But this choice was cancelled in 2004 due to high cost of integration of the Italian torpedoes into German combat system. Currently there are no announced acquisition plans for modern torpedoes. So what kind of torpedoes are used?

For the previous updates of eastern Mediterranean:

The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 2)

The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 1)

The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 2)

While thew worlds attention is turned to the recent meetings and debates in the UN in New York, the high tension situation continues in the Eastern Med. The harsh rhetoric of last week turned into concrete actions.

Turkey signed an oil and gas exploration agreement with Northern Cyprus the Turkish Cypriot part of the island. This move was immediately condemned by Greek Cypriots who consider themselves the real and only inhabitants of the island.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, making good on earlier threats, has signed an agreement with Dervis Eroglu, president of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), to explore for oil and natural gas offshore in the eastern Mediterranean.

“This agreement we signed today with the Republic of Turkey is a precautionary measure to make our Greek counterparts desist,” Eroglu said, referring to the Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus.

Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974, when Turkish troops occupied its northern third in response to what it saw as an Athens-engineered coup in Nicosia aimed at union with Greece.

Turkey has repeatedly called on Cyprus to postpone its exploration for oil and gas, saying that the Greek side has no right to undertake a unilateral search for sources of energy while the island remains divided.

On Friday, the old, tried and dependable Turkish seismic research ship R/V K. Piri Reis departed from her homeport and is heading towards Cyprus. She is the only Turkish registered civilian ship for this purpose. The 38 years old ship is destined to be replaced by newer ships.

Turkey has sent an energy exploration ship to search for gas and oil in waters off the Turkish-controlled north of Cyprus.

Turkey had warned it would take the step unless Greek Cypriots cancelled their own plans to drill for gas in waters they control to the south.

Live footage of the Piri Reis leaving the port of Izmir on Friday was broadcast on Turkish television.

There was no sign of a naval escort despite earlier suggestions by the Turkish government.

While BBC reports that there was no sign of close naval escort of R/V K. Piri Reis, there are reports that three Turkish warships, the frigate  F-247 TCG Salihreis, the training ship A-577 TCG Sokullu Mehmet Paşa and the tug Y-161 TCG Öncü  have sailed to the Aegan Sea. There are also reports that Turkish submarines are deployed in the region but due to the stealthy nature of submarines such news are impossible for us either to confirm or to deny.

The US based think tank STRATFOR suggested that it could be a wise move for Greece to stage an attack against Turkey using the current situation as an excuse. STRATFOR is run by Mr. George Freidman who in this book “The Next 100 years” foresees a large scale war between alliance of Turkey and Japan and the alliance of USA and Poland.

Turkey reckons that Europe is far too distracted with the eurozone crisis to come up with a coherent policy for Greece’s troubled finances, much less an energy dispute in Cypriot waters. Ankara also assumed that the United States, already dealing with multiple, growing crises in the eastern Mediterranean, and looking for Turkish assistance to put out many of these fires, would defend Turkey and pressure the Greek Cypriots and Noble Energy to hold back on drilling.

The Turkish government may need to factor in an additional concern. Greece may indeed be far too distracted with its financial crisis to react decisively to Turkey’s actions against Cyprus. But if Turkey actually tries to follow through with its threat — carrying out overflights and providing naval escorts to energy exploration crews in disputed Cypriot waters — things could get messy. And if a hard-pressed Greek government is looking for a distraction to rally public support, a conflict with Turkey may not be a bad idea — especially if it’s one the Turks weren’t anticipating.

While this kinda warmongering article is interesting to read it fails entirely to answer one simple question: A war is a very costly matter. Look how the two relatively low intensity wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, crippled US economy.

So how on earth will Greece finance Greece a shooting war with Turkey when the whole economical survival of this nation is dependent on the money she is going to receive from EU and IMF?

Turkey’s involvement in the Eastern Mediterranean is not limited to Israel or Cypruss. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and US President Barack Obama agreed during a meeting on 20th September 2011 Tuesday, to build up pressure on Syria’s embattled president to produce a result that would meet Syrian people’s demands. Just 4 days after this annonucement Turkey sized an Syrian flagged ship carriying arms to Syria.

Turkey has seized a Syrian-flagged ship loaded with weapons, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said. He did not say where or when the vessel was stopped, but vowed to confiscate any arms shipments for Syria coming through Turkish waters or airspace.

Mr. Erdogan has repeatedly criticised Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over his government’s violent crackdown on street protesters.

Last week, Mr. Erdogan said the era of oppressive dictators was over.

“Turkey has arrested a ship flying the Syrian flag and carrying weapons,” Mr. Erdogan said in New York where he attended the UN General Assembly, Turkey’s Anataolia news agency reports. “If in the future arms shipments (to Syria) are made by air or land, we will stop and seize them,” he added.

I hope that we would be more careful with the storage of the seized weapons than Cyprus. With so much going on in the Eastern Mediterranean we cannot risk to lose any harbor installations.

I have tried to summarize what happened in the last couple of days in the region. The tension in region will remain high. So stay tuned. Click for the previous installment.

The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean

As 19th September 2011, US based energy company Noble Energy is starting to drill for gas off Cyprus in Block 12. The company has already conducting exploration for gas off the Coast of Israel and found some large gas reservoirs.

Block 12 lies just across the border of the Israeli-Cypriot maritime exclusive economic zones from Leviathan. Noble Energy has had the concession to Block 12 since 2008, and under a March 2010 agreement, Avner and Delek Drilling have an option to 30% of the concession.

Under the terms of the exploration license, Delek Drilling and Avner will bear 15% of Noble Energy’s expenditures for Block 12, including exploration and appraisal wells, development or production, and/or other operations, in accordance with the Production Sharing Contract.

The deadline for the Cypriot authorities to approve the transfer of rights to Block 12 has been extended to August 1, 2013. Until then, Avner and Delek Drilling can transfer their rights to a third party acceptable to Noble Energy and subject to approval by the Cypriot authorities.

Noble Energy is due to begin drilling an exploratory well in Block 12 by October 1. Until the Cypriot government approves the transfer of rights in Block 12 to Avner and Delek Drilling, they will have no access to any confidential information about Block 12 activities nor influence on drilling decisions.

Turkey objects to any exploration of hydro carbon resources off the coast off Cyprus before a solution is found to the separation of the two communities living on the island. This not going to happen soon (if at all). The Greek Cypriot part is recognized as the Republic of Cyprus in the international arena and is a member of EU. They have diplomatic and economic backing from EU and they  effectively and successfully excluded the Turkish community after Turkish invasion in 1974. And in my view the Greek Cypriots do not have any reason to end this separation as they are better off divided.

Greek Cypriot government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said the island adheres to international law and would defend its rights “calmly, but with much determination and vigor,” claiming “it’s others who are violating the law.”

Greek Cypriot officials last year accused Turkish navy ships of interfering with an offshore oil and gas survey off Cyprus’ south coast.

Ankara also insists that Turkish Cypriots, who run their own state in the north of the island, should have a say in the island’s oil and gas rights.

Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Hüseyin Özgürgün said last week oil and gas exploration could harm ongoing reunification talks. 

At the heart of the problem lies the division of the EEZ boundaries in Eastern Mediterranean.  What Cyprus and Greece want to achieve is to bottle up Turkey and divide the most of the EEZ between themselves.  Turkey does not approve this notion.

The current political crisis between Turkey and Israel over the Israel’s refusal for an apology for the killing on board of M/V Mavi Marmara gives Turkey a very good reason and opportunity to send its warships to the region.

But apparently Turkish is not the only nation interested in sending its warships to the region.

Russia has sent two nuclear-powered submarines to patrol Eastern Mediterranean waters around Cyprus and enforce the island’s right to explore for undersea oil and gas in its territorial seas, according to information from Defencenet.gr, citing a Russian FM spokesman.

Well sending submarines is a very easy thing to do. Unlike surface warships the main purpose of any submarine is to remain unseen and unobserved. This stealth nature of the submarines makes it impossible for most of the common folk to see if they have been actually send or not as it is not possible to prove either the presence or the absence of the submarines. But why on earth is Russia involved in the Eastern Mediterranean?

The support of Moscow to Nicosia for exploitation of the EEZ is by no means accidental. Besides the enduring friendship of the two countries, a “serious game” is unfolding on the background. The Russian state company Gazprom, which is currently the Number 1 player in the international gas market, is interested on securing rights to gas fields in Cyprus. Indeed, according to information from “Kathimerini”, the Russian giant has shown strong interest in two fields, whose rights will be claimed in the second licensing round, expected on early 2012.

In the meantime the tension remains high between Turkey and Israel.  Two sides showed some muscles last week.

The Israeli Armed Forces have made the high seas successful test of missile defense system Barak.

The exercise scenario involved the simulated incoming enemy missile in which the system failed to stop, according to a statement a senior Israeli Navy. 

The system has undergone Barak upgrades that enable it to successfully intercept most advanced missiles, firing missiles against them automatically.

The emphasis given to the system because it has increased the danger of missiles against surface vessels, such as the Russian-built Yakhont which acquired the Syrian armed forces. Usually, weapons systems deployed by the Syrians, sooner or later end up in the hands of the Lebanese Shiite organization Hezbollah.

Turkey threatened to veto Israel, if the Jewish state establishes an office as part of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue initiative which Israel is a part of along with other six countries. And Turkey published photos of the first test firing of its own stand-off munition know as Stand-off Precision Guided Munition (SOM).

Turkish air force has recently displayed its first medium range Stand-off Precision Guided Munition (SOM). Missile has been displayed along with F-16 fighter jets. SOM is developed by the Tubitak-Sage for the Turkish Undersecretariat for Defence Industries.

Turkish Stand-off Precision Guided Munition (SOM) also offers features like In-flight Mission Selection Re-Targeting, Resistance to Counter Measures and Chaff.

Contract was awarded to the Tubitak-Sage in 2006 for the development of a medium range Stand-off Precision Guided Munition (SOM) which can be launched by the fighter jets of the Turkish air force.

Turkish Stand-off Precision Guided Munition (SOM) has a range of over 180 kilometers when launched by the fighter jets. SOM is reported to have extremely high accuracy to destroy its intended targets with pin point accuracy.

SOM uses combination of Global Positioning System (GPS)and inertial navigation system (INS) for inital flight while a Aselsan-built infrared imaging guidance is used for the terminal attack to ensure the precise strike.

I have tried to summarize what happened in the last couple of days in the region. The tension in region will remain high. So stay tuned.

Click for the second part.

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