A GREAT CRISIS APPROACHING IN THE AEGEAN
30 11 2011
Tensions continue to run high in the Eastern Mediterranean. The alliance that has come to being between Southern Cyprus, Greece and Israel continues to raise the pitch in the region systematically. Although the present dangerous course may so far have remained limited to the Eastern Mediterranean, it will spread to the Aegean very soon.
To give a brief description of the vitality of the situation we may give the following example. If we were to imagine a monster, the sovereign economic zone and Bloc 12 moves Southern Cyprus has carried out with Israel form the tail end of the monster. Its head is in the Aegean Sea. The monster’s tail was first sighted in the Eastern Mediterranean. Its head will emerge in the Aegean.
What has brought Israel, Southern Cyprus and Greece together is clear enough. The administrations of these three countries share anxieties, fears and jealousy over the same thing: Turkey. None of these three can bear to see the brightness of the Turkish star and crescent being noticed far away.
Ankara’s influence over the Middle east and North Africa has been increasing noticeably. Bankrupt Greece and Southern Cyprus, on its way to bankruptcy, are watching this process with concern. The Greek-Greek Cypriot alliance which once founded strategic partnerships with every country that had a dispute with Turkey, and therefore tried to encircle Turkey from every front, had thus hoped to drive Turkey away from Europe and Cyprus and chase it away from the Mediterranean and the Aegean.
At present, it seems that Greece and Southern Cyprus have only succeeded in becoming the props of Israel. Had Israel noticed the deadlock in its own system and managed to reproduce itself, everything might have moved in a different direction and more productive course. However, Netanyahu’s ideological blindness has begun this process. For now, let us leave all this aside and shed light on a different dimension of the issue.
Whatever else may be the case, the discovery work being carried out by the firm Noble Energy in Bloc 12 of the Eastern Mediterranean sovereign economic zone has a global implication beyond its dual, regional and multilateral ramifications. The reach of Cyprus’ hydrocarbon reserves to the international market has a very great strategic significance.
Israel is making an effort to reserve the Eastern Mediterranean for itself. Southern Cyprus’ efforts at sabotaging the solution talks on the island are well known. Christophias is working towards acquiring all of Cyprus’ resources for the Greek Cypriot side. Southern Cyprus’ attempts at deriving a profit from this project and forming a strategic counterbalance to Turkey have reached a critical phase. Athens is playing its role in all of this with pleasure. Greece, Israel and Southern Cyprus are determined that the Christophias administration should take over the European Union presidency in the second half of 2012.
Israel is making use of the professional services of Greece and Southern Cyprus in the steps it is taking to hurt Turkey. While Israel carries out economic cooperation with Southern Cyprus in Bloc 12 of the sovereign economic zone, it is also in military cooperation with Greece. It is a fact that Greece and Southern Cyprus have shared a joint military doctrine for many years.
The greatest advantage enjoyed by the “three musketeers” has been the ability to add their “evil alliance project” to the global balances. The geostrategic balance and the global conjecture have been instrumental in Southern Cyprus’ attack to make use of the income of the resources of the island.
It is very much possible that Southern Cyprus would not be enjoying such comfort had it not gained the potential to be a rival to the Nabucco natural gas pipeline which would carry Azerbaijani natural gas to Europe over Turkey. To put it frankly, such issues are of more of a concern to the international community than the dispute between a couple of hundred thousand Turkish and Greek Cypriots.
It is not easy to determine how excited the international community is at the tension between Turkey and Israel. However, a project which would relieve Europe of its energy dependency on Russia would undoubtedly mean a shot of adrenaline.
If US sourced claims estimating the presence of 1.68 billion barrels of oil and 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean watershed are correct, this will have major strategic significance. It would be such big news that it may lead to the sacrifice of certain promises made to allies.
Up until now, we have been talking about the tail end of the monster. Now to turn to its head... We will continue in the same template and with the same clichés.
Greece has been unable to secure an advantage over Turkey in the issue, or more properly issues, of the Aegean. NATO has not lent support to Greek demands. The European Union has acted similarly.
Indeed, it was the first time that the European Union chose to remain so silent over the national interests of one of its member states. The UN and other international institutions have also avoided giving support to the unjustified claims of Athens. Even the former commander of the Greek Navy, Admiral Andonis, has verified that the Greek demands over the Aegean were unjustified and illegitimate.
NATO and European Union member Greece is sitting atop a giant debt pile. Greece has gone bankrupt. The European Union is having a hard time finding funding for Greece. Had Greece been in possession of underground wealth, it could have saved itself. Athens would not only of been use to itself, but it could have also lessened the energy dependency of the European Union on Russia.
It would have been a fairy tale or a dream come true. Could it happen? Could Athens furthermore use the global balances to its own advantage and add its national interests to the global process, just as it did with the Cyprus issue in the Eastern Mediterranean, win an advantageous end to the conflicts it is party to in the Aegean?
The firm Regal Petroleum had announced in 2004 that it had discovered 1 billion barrels of crude oil reserves in the Northern Aegean. In the most recent period we have witnessed Greece, which is unable to pay salaries, spend every last penny of its money, up to and including credit not yet received, on arms, ammunition and military vehicles.
According to claims there are around 16 to 17 oil zones of varying sizes in the Aegean. It is possible that the Aegean contains more oil than the 6,400 barrels/day produced by Greece near the Thasos Island since 2003. Since 1996, the US, Canadian and Greek consortium North Aegean Petroleum Company (NAPC) had been operating the Prinos field. The field was later turned over to the Kavala Oil firm. Today Kavala Oil produces 3,000 barrels/day in the Prinos field and the entirety of its output is purchased by the state firm Hellenic Petroleum (HP).
The British discovery firm Regal Petroleum took over most of the Kavala oil field in January 2004. Regal Petroleum discovered reserves of 227 million barrels. Upon this finding, planning was carried out to increase production from 4,000 barrels/day to 15,000 barrels/day. The discovery of 1 billion barrels worth of deposits by Regal Petroleum came following this development.
The European Union is for some reason not at all angry with Greece which has cheated it with false reports and statistics. The European Union for some reason sends billions of Euros of funds to Greece. This, despite Greece not doing anything other than passing a few cosmetic measures. Germany and France are for some reason on the one hand trying to save Greece while on the other hand they contribute to its expenses by selling it arms. Similarly, Israel has for some reason entered a strategic military partnership with Greece.
It seems that all the pieces of the puzzle are in place. 2012, when Southern Cyprus will take the European Union helm, will be very active indeed. Some events and experiences in political history show that when risk and danger are at their highest level, the possibility of a solution and resolution also rise.
Could the problems of the Eastern Mediterranean, that is Cyprus, and of Greece, that is the Aegean, be the foundation of joint welfare now that they have become so intertwined and found themselves new grounds and a framework? Could the sides work and live together? Would they be willing to do so? Or will the monster with its tail in the Eastern Mediterranean and its head in the Aegean produce new problems?