France Deploys Warships as Tensions with Turkey Rise

France is boosting its military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean to reinforce Cypriot and Greek claims in the area and protect the activities of its energy giant Total.

The helicopter carrier Tonnerre, which is taking aid to Lebanon following the fertilizer explosion in Beirut, and the frigate La Fayette, which is training with the Greek navy, will remain in the area.

Two French Rafale warplanes will be based in Crete.

The deployments come after the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier patrolled the region earlier this year, and in response to the appearance of Turkish drill ships and frigates in disputed waters.

Turkish warships have in the past blocked Western drilling rigs in waters around Cyprus. Read more “France Deploys Warships as Tensions with Turkey Rise”

Cyprus Votes Against EU Trade Deal with Canada

Nicos Anastasiades Mette Frederiksen
President Nicos Anastasiades of Cyprus speaks with Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen of Denmark in Brussels, February 20, 2020 (European Council)

First tiny Wallonia threatened to derail the EU’s free-trade agreement with Canada. Now Cyprus, with a population of 1.2 million, is putting at risk a treaty that covers nearly 500 million consumers and 28 percent of the world’s economy.

Cypriot lawmakers voted 37 to eighteen against the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which eliminates nearly all tariffs between Canada and the EU and includes mutual recognition of professional qualifications and product standards.

It’s one of those product standards the Cypriots are unhappy about. They argue CETA should close the Canadian market to foreign ripoffs of their national cheese, halloumi. Read more “Cyprus Votes Against EU Trade Deal with Canada”

Gas Exploration Opens New Doors in Nicosia

Located between Europe and the Middle East, Cyprus has historically been of strategic significance to powers on either side of the Mediterranean Sea. The discovery of natural gas off its shores has raised the island’s geopolitical profile — and might help it overcome communal tensions.

Cypriot waters are estimated to contain between 140 and 220 billion cubic meters of gas with an approximate value of €38 billion.

Exploration should spur economic growth and could make it easier for internationally-recognized Greek Cyprus and Turkey to hash out a compromise for the future of the island.

Cyprus has been divided into Greek and Turkish communities since a 1974 Turkish invasion. A United Nations peacekeeping force keeps the two sides apart.

The planned construction of a 2,000-kilometer gas pipeline connecting Israel to Cyprus to Greece makes resolving the conflict a higher priority for the EU. It is keen to diversify the continent’s energy supply away from Russia. Read more “Gas Exploration Opens New Doors in Nicosia”

Trump and the Turks

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Donald Trump
Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, May 16 (Presidency of the Republic of Turkey)

As Donald Trump returns from his first international tour as American president, one thing that stands out is, as usual, the difference between his and Barack Obama’s approach to diplomacy. Whereas Obama’s first Mideast destinations were Turkey and Iraq, Trump’s were Saudi Arabia and Israel, a country Obama did not even visit until his second term in office.

Trump’s trip also included stops in Brussels, Sicily and the Vatican in Rome. Along with Saudi Arabia and Israel, these represent four of the five most significant allies of the United States within the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean region: Italy, Israel, the Saudis and the EU.

The fifth ally, which appears to have been snubbed, is Turkey. The Turks were not honored with a stop during Trump’s first trip to the region, as they were during Obama’s.

Turkey failing to make it onto Trump’s travel itinerary might seem to be of little significance, if it were not for the flurry of unpleasant events involving the Turks and Americans that have occured this same month. Read more “Trump and the Turks”

Geopolitical Shifts Will Enable Cyprus’ Reunification

In 1974, Turkish forces invaded Cyprus, splitting the island into a Turkish north and a Greek Cypriot south. Now, for the first time in decades, unification seems at hand. Once the sorest point for the NATO alliance, the Cyprus dispute may soon be consigned to the dustbin of history.

What’s happened here? Why has everyone suddenly started acting so reasonable?

The short answer: the geopolitical conditions that caused the 1974 war are dead and buried. Read more “Geopolitical Shifts Will Enable Cyprus’ Reunification”

Cyprus Signs Deal Allowing Russian Ships to Use Ports

Russia signed an agreement with Cyprus on Wednesday that allows its navy ships regular access to the Mediterranean island nation’s ports.

Both countries downplayed the pact’s significance. Russian president Vladimir Putin told reporters in Moscow the ships that dock at Cyprus would likely be involved in international anti-piracy operations.

“Our friendly ties aren’t aimed against anyone,” he said. “I don’t think it should cause worries anywhere.” Read more “Cyprus Signs Deal Allowing Russian Ships to Use Ports”

Cyprus Denies Would Lease Military Bases to Russia

Cyprus denied on Monday it was prepared to lease two military bases to Russia. Such an arrangement would have undermined a decades-old Western strategy of blocking Russia in the Eastern Mediterranean.

“There is no question of Russian air or naval military bases on the soil of Cyprus,” the foreign minister, Ioannis Kasoulides, told the Cyprus News Agency.

Earlier, the Russian state newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported that Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades would make the offer to lease two bases on a visit to Moscow later this month. Read more “Cyprus Denies Would Lease Military Bases to Russia”

Turkey Would Open Air Base for Syria Strikes, Cyprus Unaware

Turkey would likely allow NATO warplanes to use its İncirlik Air Base near the Syrian border in support of a military intervention in the country, a Turkish official told Hürriyet Daily News on Monday, while Cyprus’ foreign minister said he was unaware of British plans to use its airfield on the island in such an operation. Read more “Turkey Would Open Air Base for Syria Strikes, Cyprus Unaware”

Cyprus: A Small Country Raises Big Questions

Recent negotiations over Cyprus’ bailout plan tested the hard wrought stability of a union which seemed finally to have solved a few of its core problems.

Few imagined that the Mediterranean country’s financial problems, well known in advance, could rattle the European Union anew. Yet an economy approximately one tenth the size of Greece’s, where the estimated sum of a bailout package would reach a maximum of €18 billion, in relative terms a paltry sum, raised more existential problems for the euro. Read more “Cyprus: A Small Country Raises Big Questions”

Cyprus Refuses to Be Drawn Into Russia’s Orbit

After the European Union agreed to a financial rescue of Cyprus on Monday, the Netherlands’ Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs the group of eurozone finance ministers, announced, “We put an end to the uncertainty for Cyprus and the eurozone.”

Yet much of the uncertainty was created by the bloc’s unwillingness to bail out Cyprus altogether and the possibility of Russian involvement in its rescue. Read more “Cyprus Refuses to Be Drawn Into Russia’s Orbit”