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 9)

Ropucha class large landing ship 151 Azov on her northbound passage through Bosphorus

Ropucha class large landing ship 151 Azov is the first Russian ship to ever visit Israel.  This photo shows her during one of many recent passages through Bosphorus.

The Russian Defence Ministry announced that the large landing ship 154 Azov will be the first ship ever to visit Israel. The ship will be in Haifa, Israel between 1 and 3 May 2013.

A Russian naval ship will visit Israel for the first time in the country’s history, the Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.

The Azov, a Ropucha II-class landing ship from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, will call at the port of Haifa from May 1-3, the ministry’s press service said.

The visit is timed to coincide with the 68th anniversary of the Allied victory in World War II, a press service representative said.

“The visit is the initiative of veteran organizations in Israel,” he added.

The program of the visit includes performances by the Black Sea Fleet orchestra for Israeli war veterans and Haifa residents. The warship will also be open to the public for visits.

A reception on board the Azov will be organized for World War II veterans living in Israel.

This is an interesting move from Russia. In March Russian warships Kaliningrad, Alexander Shabalin and Yaruslav Mudryy. made a visit in Beirut. It seems as if Russia is looking for an alternative port for its Mediterranean fleet if Tartous should become inhospitable.

Israeli officials on board INS Rahav Photo: Israeli Defense Ministry via The Times Of Israel

Israeli officials on board INS Rahav Photo: Israeli Defense Ministry via The Times Of Israel

Last week Israeli Navy received its fifth Dolphin class submarine INS Rahav in Kiel Germany. The Dolphin class submarines are one of the most advanced conventional submarines in the world.

The submarine – called the INS Rahav – is the most expensive defense platform ever purchased by Israel. The vessel is set to undertake several long-range classified missions that are critical for Israel’s security.

The submarine is viewed by the navy as an important “force multiplier” that will enable Israel to cope with threats in the increasingly unstable Middle East region.

According to foreign reports, the navy’s Dolphins also provide Israel with nuclear second-strike capabilities, as they can travel far from Israel’s territorial waters and are reportedly able to carry long-range cruise missiles tipped with nuclear warheads.

The latest Dolphin-class subs can remain submerged longer than their predecessors.

The INS Rahav, together with the INS Tanin – the fourth Dolphin sub, delivered to Israel in 2012 – and the sixth sub, which is still being built, will cost a total of some 1.4 billion Euro ($1.8 billion). The German government is reportedly covering a third of the cost.

The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 8)

D-615 FS jean Bart with a Cypriot helicopter. From last years exercise. Photo: Cypriot Defence Ministry

D-615 FS Jean Bart with a Cypriot helicopter. From last years exercise. Photo: Cypriot Defence Ministry

The Russian ship movements have stolen the show from the actions in Eastern Mediterranean. So it is time again to focus to that region.

Today between 9.00 and 13:00 the French Navy conducted a search and rescue exercise with Cyprus. The Cassard class, destroyer D-615 FS Jean Bart took part in the exercise. From Cyprus two AW -139 helicopters of the National Guard and the Police as well as a Navy vessel and a patrol boat have taken part, including the medical unit of the Larnaca Civil Defence rescue team, according to Farmagusta Gazette.

The French destroyer is scheduled to conduct a port visit in Novorossiysk from 23 to 26 April. Thus I believe she is heading north as you are reading this post.

I didn’t realized that Jean Bart went through a modernization process similar to Turkish MEKO 200 class frigates. The original French radar DRBJ 11B was replaced by 3D Smart-S Mk2.

Next week there will be another search and rescue exercise roughly in the same area.

The Ministry of Defense in Cyprus announced that in the context of the cooperation between the Republic of Cyprus and the State of Israel in matters of search and rescue within the Exclusive Economic Zone and the areas of responsibility for search and rescue of the two countries, a joint search and rescue exercise will take place on April 23.

The exercise will be carried out in a marine area southwest of the Cypriot city of Limassol.

On the Cypriot side, patrol vessels of the Cyprus Port and Marine Police and of the Cyprus Navy, search and rescue helicopters of the Police and the Aviation of Cyprus, as well as the Medical Rescue Teams of the Cyprus Civil Defense and of the Medical and Nursing Services will participate in the exercise.

On the side of Israel, five ships of the Israeli Navy will participate in the exercise.

The exercise has been planned by a joint design team and is coordinated by the Search and Rescue Center in Larnaca, in cooperation with its counterpart in Haifa

I am glad to see that despite the recent economical troubles,  Cyprus can find  the needed resources to conduct these exercises. 

Regular Shipping Service Between Turkey And Israel Has Started

The Turkish shipping company Sisa Shipping started a regular Ro/Ro service between İskenderun Turkey and -wait for it- Haifa Israel this week.

The first voyage of the Ro/Ro Nissos Rodos started on 20th November. According to the Sisa Shipping the voyage will last only 12 hours. This is the first regular shipping service between to the two countries. I guess it is very much understandable why the company uses a chartered Greek ship for this trip.

The timing of the first voyage -during the hostilities between Israel and  Gaza-  shows that there is a huge gap between the political rhetoric and economical realities.

 

Noble Dina 2012

Between 1998 and 2009  Turkish, US and Israeli navies conducted an annual naval exercise called Reliant Mermaid. This exercise is discontinued now in accordance with the deteriorating bilateral relations between Turkey and Israel in the last couple years.

Last year Greece has replaced Turkey and these there nations held to naval exercise Noble Dina 2011. While the Reliant Mermaid was marketed as a trilateral humanitarian search and rescue (SAR) exercise involving naval ships and aircraft of the participants according to Greek media the new military operation scenarios include exercises of repelling enemy attacks against offshore natural gas and oil rigs, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and prohibition of military aircraft operations.

And as an interesting coincidence this year exercise is aligned with the signing of  tripartite energy agreement between Greece, Israel and Cyprus.

Greece will join the exercise with combat jets, at least one frigate and one submarine.

Active Endeavor With Or Without Israeli Participation?

Operation Active Endeavor (OAE) is one of the NATO’s oldest still running operations. It started as support to the United States immediately after 9/11. The aim is to demonstrate NATO’s solidarity and resolve in the fight against terrorism and to help detect and deter terrorist activity in the Mediterranean.

OAE started as a NATO members only operation but since 2004 non-NATO countries are welcomed to join. In the part years Russia, Ukraine, Morocco and Israel have made contributions to OAE in various forms.

According to a Jerusalem Post report Turkey prevented an Israeli plan to contribute an Israel Navy missile ship to a NATO’s OAE, in what would have been the first time Israel actively participated in one of the Western military alliance’s operations.

Diplomatic and defense officials told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that Turkey had decided to prevent Israeli participation in the Active Endeavor – following the Israel Navy raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010 in which nine Turkish nationals were killed.Diplomatic officials said that ever since its success, Turkey had been seeking to scuttle greater Israeli participation in the alliance.

In 2008, Israel sent a navy officer to sit at the operation’s headquarters in Naples and in late 2009, Defense Minister Ehud Barak submitted an official request to NATO to contribute a missile ship to the mission. In 2010, Israel and NATO signed an agreement that was supposed to pave the way for the ship’s participation.

“Israel’s navy anyhow patrols the Mediterranean and since we were interested in upgrading our ties with NATO, it made sense to offer to actively participate in the operation,” a senior government official said. “The Turks, though, torpedoed the move and refused to allow one of our ships to join.”

The it would be surprising if Turkey would not be objecting to Israels contribution given the current level of the relation between the two countries. But I personally do not think that Turkey can insist on its veto if other nations really want Israel in OAE. Turkey was not able to hinder the return of Greece and France to the alliance so this blocking of Israeli contribution may be symbolic.

Turkish newspaper Zaman reported that NATO considering an Israeli contribution to the alliance’s naval patrol in the Mediterranean, despite Turkey’s opposition.

NATO spokeswoman Carmen Romero said the offer is being evaluated “according to NATO procedures and operation requirements.”

In the past, Israeli warships and air force jets have joined in some NATO exercises, but Israel’s participation in the naval operation would the first time its armed forces have taken part in one of the alliance’s military operations.

Israel is a member of the Mediterranean Dialogue, a NATO outreach program with seven friendly nations bordering on that waterway. Romero said the alliance is prepared to enhance practical cooperation with all partner nations in the region, including Israel.

In Ankara, a Turkish foreign ministry official on Friday confirmed an Israeli news report that his nation, a key NATO ally and its only Muslim-majority member, has rejected Israel’s plan to contribute a navy frigate to the operation, which is aimed at curbing terrorism in the Mediterranean Sea. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with government rules.

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)

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