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RUSSIA AS THE GUARANTOR OF EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN SAFETY. Regional presence of Moscow will reduce the risk of conflict in the Turkey — Cyprus — Israel — Syria square

RUSSIA AS THE GUARANTOR OF EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN SAFETY. Regional presence of Moscow will reduce the risk of conflict in the Turkey — Cyprus — Israel — Syria square

The new power, designed to secure peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, is to put itself forth with strength and energy. We have to say that Russia fits the role just fine. At that, Russia also has economic incentives to carry out active policy in that direction. It is well-known that Syria is going to develop trade relations with the Customs Union.

Unfortunately Russian and Chinese veto to the UN resolution, which would’ve surely triggered the new war in the Middle East, had failed to secure the regional stability, although it surely had a positive impact on Syria itself. Certain members of Security Council have been apparently pushing it towards the Libyan lot — a full-fledged inter-ethnical and inter-confessional conflict. Still, some people consider it quite acceptable and even scheduled, perhaps. So, the U. S. State Secretary Clinton has expressed her sincere indignation with Moscow and Beijing stand on Syria, claiming that "the countries, which decided to veto resolution, are to explain that to the Syrian nation". We may easily recognize the Washington supported strata of Syrian society in this "nation" — according to Clinton, they’d have welcomed the Libyan scenario to take place in their own country.

In general, the term "Mediterranean" has all the chanced for acquiring new geopolitical meaning in the nearest future. Throughout the last year it has been the cradle for events that changed the world and shaped the new layout of powers and spheres of influence. Apart from the general contagious instability-spreading Arab Spring trend, Turkish ambitions (which are more than willing to expand the limits of its power) are gaining all the greater significance. These ambitions are sophisticated and turn the Eastern Mediterranean life into an entangled web of military, political and economic strings.

The Mediterranean Sea has always been one of those regions, where the interests of various states, military-political blocs and religious communities clashed. For quite a time Cyprus was considered the key to the Eastern Mediterranean — its strategic location made it constantly switch masters, being the outpost to various empires (directed either towards Christian Europe or the Muslim Turkey and the East in general). Currently the island of Cyprus is caught somewhere in the middle containing two rather contradictory political subjects within its territory. A bit more than a half of the island is controlled by the authorities of Greek republic of Cyprus, recognized by anyone in the world but Turkey. The remaining territory belongs to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, populated by ethnic Turks and recognized only by Turkey itself, Abkhazia and the Azerbaijani autonomous republic Nakhichevan.

An additional nuance is that Cyprus cannot be treated as merely a convenient outpost for controlling the region rich with natural resources. Recently it became known that Cyprus itself is important as a potential oil and gas deposit. Besides, in 2012 the "Greek" part of the island is to formally head the European Union. Reliable map of geological shelf prospect is to appear in the same year — then tiny Cyprus will turn into a big fish both in politics and energy overnight. This surely gives birth to a conflict of interests between the major geopolitical players.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has already claimed that Turkey will freeze its relations with all 27 EU countries, if the latter one sticks to the scheduled plane and Cyprus chair it in July of 2012. According to the Turkish Prime Minister, his country is unwilling to have any diplomatic ties with the "so-called" state because official Ankara doesn’t recognize the sovereignty of "Greek" Cyprus.

The claim itself promises little political calmness the next year. Recently Turkey has been ostentatiously aggressive in the foreign-policy, while the matter of Greek or Turkish Cyprus has been the matter of honor for Turkey since 1974. This exact problem is the main obstacle on the Turkish way to the European Union. And while Turkey denied forgoing its principles before, it will hardly to it now, with tremendous shelf deposits of energy resources discovered. Erdoğan warned the EU and the entire Mediterranean separately that Turkey will "strike back tough" if the Greek republic of Cyprus keep on with its oil and gas prospecting in the Mediterranean Sea. Turkish exploration ships have been prospecting the shelf on their own for quite a time now, being backed up by a number of Turkish warships. At the present moment Norwegian exploratory ship, freighted by Turkey to seek for hydrocarbons, is in the Cyprus-Crete-Turkey triangle. In the nearest time it is to be reinforced by a Turkish seismographic "Piri Reis" ship.

As long as Turkey consistently sought a conflict with Israel, presence of the Turkish fleet in direct proximity to Israeli borders made Tel-Aviv anxious. Israel also built up its military presence south of Cyprus, informing Turkey that it shouldn’t be "playing a policeman in the Eastern Mediterranean".

The statement of Cypriote President Dimitris Christofias, who said that his country is not going to negotiate its sovereign rights on drilling and oil and gas exploration at the island shelf, triggered this decision. When the data on Turkish naval maneuvers about the Noble Energy drilling station (hired to prospect the hydrocarbons by Cypriote government) appeared, Israeli missile corvettes have also approached the prospected region, lying 150 kilometers away from Cyprus coast in order to uphold the parity of powers.

Apart from hydrocarbon deposits, there are purely political reasons for the Turkish and Israeli fleet to clash. Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan defined avenging the death of Turkish citizens that were aboard the Freedom Flotilla (which attempted to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza Strip and attacked by Israeli special forces unit) to be one of his top priorities. Proceeding from Turkish official rhetoric, Israel is the main threat of Turkey today — and a nuclear one at that. Responding to that, Israeli Air Force flew over the sea areas, where the said incidents had taken place.

Russia undoubtedly has its own Mediterranean interests. They are connected to both Cyprus and Syria. In the beginning of October, Cypriote cabinet borrowed €2.5 billion from Russia. The loan will be designed as an inter-governmental agreement for the term of 4.5 years, while the credit line will be used in January of 2012. As the Cypriote press-release reports, "the credit is to cover up the short-term and average-term financial needs of the Republic of Cyprus and to improve the state financial stability". Given the obvious troubles connected to the Turkish position regarding the Cypriote chairmanship over the EU and the tensions surrounding the discovered hydrocarbon shelf deposits, certain guarantees are necessary — for instance, the guarantees that the Republic of Cyprus will be able to pay for the credit and develop the energy resources deposit (including the use of professional help from Russia).

Besides, in spite of all the discrepancies with the EU, Turkey still finds some time to quarrel with Syria. Erdoğan promised to impose sanctions against official Damascus regardless of the UN decision and the will of other international institutions. Thus, Turkey gave up its role of a mediator between Syria and the West, and started its own policy (consonant with the American one) instead. Anyway, that’s what Tehran accused Ankara of.

Syrian leadership has also interpreted the exclamations of Turkish Prime Minister as the fulfillment of Washington and Israeli orders. Certain Arab source pointed out that meeting with the head of Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Davutoğlu, Asad dubbed him a "messenger of the Western powers, including the USA" and announced the within three hours from the moment Syria is attacked, its missiles will fly to Israel and in six hours the flame of the conflict will spread all over the Middle East.

Reasoning soberly, Asad has no other ways to secure his safety. Yes, the direct aggression of the Western states was stopped by the Russian and Chinese veto at the UN Security Council. Yet, Turkey demonstrates its readiness to act without the legal framework and there are no grounds whatsoever to believe that Ankara hostility will be restrained with the imposition of unilateral sanctions against Syria.

The new power, designed to secure peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, is to put itself forth with strength and energy. We have to say that Russia fits the role just fine. At that, Russia also has economic incentives to carry out active policy in that direction. It is well-known that Syria is going to develop trade relations with the Customs Union — state Syrian delegation is to visit Moscow to discuss the matter soon enough. And the partners’ outlets have to be protected.

Quite naturally, soon enough an impressive alignment of Russian warships, exceeding the banal "flag demonstration" by far, will gather by the Syrian coasts. The Northern Fleet will be represented by a heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser "Admiral Flota Sovetskovo Soyuza Kuznetsov" (Fleet Admiral of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov), anti-submarine destroyer "Admiral Chabanenko" and one submarine. Black Sea fleet will be represented by submarine destroyer Smetlivy, landing craft ship Caesar Kunikov and two floating repair shops. Anti-submarine ship Admiral Panteleyev with a tugboat and tanker is to arrive from the Pacific Ocean to the Mediterranean. The entire group is to gather by the middle of November and is to stay in the Mediterranean for three months.

By Andrey Polevoy

 

 

 

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