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.

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