Egypt, Cyprus, Greece condemns gas exploration by Turkey

Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Donmez waves to the drilling ship 'Yavuz' scheduled to search for oil and gas off Cyprus at the port of Dilovasi, outside Istanbul. (AFP/File)
Updated 08 October 2019

Egypt, Cyprus, Greece condemns gas exploration by Turkey

  • El-Sisi hosted a meeting with his Cypriot counterpart and Greece's PM in Cairo
  • The EuroAfrica Interconnector will stretch nearly 1,000 miles from Greece to Egypt through Cyprus

CAIRO: Egypt, Cyprus, and Greece on Tuesday condemned an “unlawful and unacceptable” bid by Turkey to drill inside waters where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights.
President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi hosted a meeting Tuesday with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Cairo.
It’s the most recent summit between the three countries’ leaders aimed at forging an energy-based alliance in the east Mediterranean.
“Turkey’s unacceptable practices and drilling ... are a blatant assault on the rights of the Cypriot Republic and the international law,” Anastasiades told a joint news conference.
He said that Cyprus would resort to “all available diplomatic means to halt Turkey’s aggression.”
El-Sisi said unilateral practices by Turkey risk destabilizing the whole eastern Mediterranean and “damage the interests” of its countries.
Turkey dispatched vessels to drill for hydrocarbons inside Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone, claiming it is protecting its own interests and those of Turkish Cypriots.
It is also at odds with Egypt over boundaries in the east Mediterranean.
Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence in the island’s northern third.
The Greek Cypriot-led government has said its offshore drilling operations are an exercise of a sovereign right and that any future gas proceeds would be shared equitably if a deal to reunify the island is reached with the breakaway Turkish Cypriots.
The three leaders also condemned Turkey’s planned military offensive into northeastern Syria, after President Donald Trump said earlier this week the US would step aside for an expected Turkish attack on Syrian Kurdish fighters, who have fought alongside Americans for years.
They vowed to step up efforts to tackle illegal migration across the eastern Mediterranean and hone their anti-terrorism tactics.
The Greek leader said that Egypt is a strategic partner for the European Union and that Cyprus and Greece would work to strengthen EU-Egypt relations.
In a previous meeting, the three countries agreed to broaden “strategic cooperation” on energy, including how to transport newly found gas in the region to Europe and linking the electricity grids of Europe and North Africa via an undersea cable.
The 2,000 megawatt cable, known as the EuroAfrica Interconnector, will stretch nearly 1,000 miles from Greece to Egypt through Cyprus.


US to pull last troops from north Syria

Updated 14 October 2019

US to pull last troops from north Syria

  • The developments illustrate Washington’s waning influence over events in Syria
  • Turkey aims to neutralize the Kurdish YPG militia, the main element of US’s Kurdish-led ally the Syrian Democratic Forces

WASHINGTON/BEIRUT: The United States said on Sunday it will withdraw its remaining 1,000 troops from northern Syria in the face of an expanding Turkish offensive while Syria’s army struck a deal with Kurdish forces to redeploy along its border with Turkey, both major victories for Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The developments illustrate Washington’s waning influence over events in Syria and the failure of the US policy of keeping Assad from reasserting state authority over areas lost during the more than eight-year conflict with rebels trying to end his rule.
The developments also represent wins for Russia and Iran, which have backed Assad since 2011 when his violent effort to crush what began as peaceful protests against his family’s decades-long rule of Syria exploded into a full-blown civil war.
While the US withdrawal moves American troops out of the line of fire, the return of Syrian soldiers to the Turkish border opens up the possibility of a wider conflagration should the Syrian army come in direct conflict with Turkish forces.
The Turkish onslaught in northern Syria has also raised the prospect that Daesh militants and their families held by the Kurdish forces targeted by Turkey may escape — scores were said to have done so already — and permit the group’s revival.
The remarkable turn of events was set in motion a week ago when US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw about 50 special operations forces from two outposts in northern Syria, a step widely seen as paving the way for Turkey to launch its week-long incursion against Kurdish militia in the region.
Turkey aims to neutralize the Kurdish YPG militia, the main element of Washington’s Kurdish-led ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has been a key US ally in dismantling the “caliphate” set up by Daesh militants in Syria.
Ankara regards the YPG as a terrorist group aligned with Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said the offensive would extend from Kobani in the west to Hasaka in the east and extend some 30 kilometers into Syrian territory, with the town of Ras al Ain now in Turkish control.
US Defense Secretary Mike Esper said the United States decided to withdraw its roughly 1,000 troops in northern Syria — two US officials told Reuters it could pull the bulk out in days — after learning of the deepening Turkish offensive.
It was unclear what would happen to the several hundred US troops at the American military outpost of Tanf, near Syria’s southern border with Iraq and Jordan.
Another factor behind the decision, Esper indicated in an interview with the CBS program “Face the Nation,” was that the SDF aimed to make a deal with Russia and Syria to counter the Turkish onslaught. Several hours later, the Kurdish-led administration said it had struck just such an agreement for the Syrian army to deploy along the length of the border with Turkey to help repel Ankara’s offensive.
The deployment would help the SDF in countering “this aggression and liberating the areas that the Turkish army and mercenaries had entered,” it added, referring to Turkey-backed Syrian rebels, and would also allow for the liberation of other Syrian cities occupied by the Turkish army such as Afrin.
The fighting has sparked Western concerns that the SDF, holding large swathes of northern Syria once controlled by Daesh, would be unable to keep thousands of militants in jail and tens of thousands of their family members in camps.