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FACTDROP: Greece: ‘Burn Like Fire in Cairo’


Greece: ‘Burn Like Fire in Cairo’

On October 14th the Greek Cyprus foreign minister Kozakou-Marcoullis sent a message to the neighbor Turkey: “Greek Cyprus’ support of Turkey’s ultimate EU accession process is not a “blank check” as it depends on Turkey’s implementation of all of the bloc’s obligations without any concessions”.

The Mediterranean island has been divided since Turkish troops intervened in 1974 in response to a Greek Cypriot coup seeking union with Greece. On Sept. 21, Turkey and Turkish Cyprus (TNC) inked a continental shelf accord in New York to determine their maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in which the Turkish state oil company will conduct exploratory drilling.

Northern Cyprus is a self-proclaimed entity, its relations with the rest of the world are further complicated by a series of United Nations resolutions which have declared it legally invalid and consider the territory de jure part of the Republic of Cyprus. In Northern Nicosia, US, UK, France, Germany and Australia have representation offices while TNC depends largely on Turkey to facilitate its contacts with the international community.

On January the Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou (GAP) met with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tavyip Erdogan to hold private talks for several hours regarding hydrocarbons in the Aegean Sea, fuelling speculation of a major disagreement over territory and ownership rights.

Back, on the 1st of March 2010 the Greek government invalidated a contract with the Canadian company Calfrac Well Services Ltd that had successfully conducted three oil drillings in Thasos area that discovered fresh oil deposits for the first time after 14 years. Admittedly this strange behavior in front of a disastrous economic crisis follows GAP’s eager intentions to invalidate the Greek – Russian contracts concerning the Burgas – Alexandoupoli oil pipeline, early in his pre-election statements back in 2009. This fact didn’t make any headlines in the news, as by that time GAP stated affirmative that “money do exist” for the citizen since were easily found for the support of the banks amidst the crisis of 2008. This made the headlines.

While recent investigations in the Greek parliament revealed that more than $140 million in bribes were paid by a German submarine maker to local politicians and officials to facilitate a lucrative defense contract (following the Siemens scandal) Greece now has more than 1,200 battle tanks, 1,700 armoured personnel carriers, 300 fighter jets (including 156 F-16s), eight submarines and more than 40 frigates, gunboats and miscellaneous missile carriers. The bloated Greek military now has an air force similar in size to Germany’s — a front-line member of NATO with an economy 10 times larger than Greece and eight times as many people. Keep in mind that ‘as usual’ the the crime of passive bribery is barred  for the responsible Defense Minister Mr. Akis Tsohatzopoulos according to the “No conviction for the Members of the Parliament” doctrine, indirectly backed by the US who had refused to give corporate information to the Greek Parliamentary Commission.

As Greece’s unemployment rate soars over 16 %, it’s military spending as a percentage of GDP is more than any other EU member and tops even nations such as Pakistan, which is engaged in a variety of ongoing conflicts. Notably Greece’s arm purchases are fully accounted for 15 per cent of German arms sales between 2006 and 2010. On top of this in October an article of the “Hellenic Defense & Technology” magazine, regarding the possible acquisition of 400 used M1A1 tanks from the U.S. surplus for the Greek Army, which was republished in English by attracted the attention of news media in many countries, mainly in Europe. Despite the consecutive deep cuts in the Greek defense budget over the last years, this news story regarding the M1A1 tanks was heavily criticized in Europe with the focus being on the argument of how it is possible to lend money to Greece in order to be saved from bankruptcy and Greece using that money to obtain tanks.

But the situation in the Mediterranean is getting hot since in September Cyprus have started oil exploration inside it’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), albeit with the ‘appropriate’ firm: the US Noble. Erdogan warned that the region “will be under the constant surveillance of Turkey’s frigates, assault boats and the Turkish air force.” “This exclusive zone is disputed,” he said, adding that Turkey had conveyed its complaints that what the Greek Cypriot government — recognized internationally but not by Ankara — had been doing was inappropriate. On Sep. 19 the Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz announced that he would start oil exploration within a week under the protection of Turkish warships.

UN special representative in Cyprus Lisa Buttenheim in an effort to release tensions said: “It should be understood that natural resources, if they are discovered, would be for the benefit of all Cypriots – Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots – under the framework of a federal united Cyprus” turning a blind eye on the Turkish presence in the area which Israel is patrolling with F-15 warplanes. Russian Ambassador to Cyprus Vyacheslav Shumskiy said Moscow’s position was “absolutely clear” on the issue. “We were among the first countries to comment on that, and we totally support the sovereign right of the Cypriot people for exploitation of natural resources , this is totally in accordance with the international law and with the EU regulations, so there is no doubt about that,” he said.

Things getting hotter as in October 6th Greece announced that in January will invite oil exploration off its western shores in the hopes of tapping reserves of some 280 million barrels. The gulf of Patras is thought to hold some 200 million barrels of crude oil, while another 80 million barrels are believed to lie near Ioannina and another three million near Katakolo. The cash-strapped Greek state, which is struggling to escape default, could draw up to €14 billion worth of oil over the next 15 years.

Today the Turkish PM stated that his country will not sit at the table with Cyprus if it assumes the European Union's presidency before a deal reunifying the ethnically split island is reached.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already warned that Turkey will freeze its relations with the bloc if Cyprus takes over the 27-member bloc's rotating presidency in July 2012. He said Saturday Turkey will not deal with a "so-called country." Turkey does not recognize Cyprus which joined the European Union on 1 May 2004, as a sovereign nation. Erdogan also warned Cyprus that Turkey will "retaliate even more strongly" to any further search for oil and gas resources in the Mediterranean.

Ahead of a possible Greek brutal default do you smell something like destabilization in the Mediterranean?

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