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US slanders Russia with new sanctions over Skripal poisoning hoax

The US government displays its lack of contact with reality with sanctions, designed to hurt both US-Russia relations and President Trump.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The pattern of slandering all things Russia with or without (usually without) the burden of proof continues in the US.

The US State Department made the decision to impose new sanctions on Russia, based on the insinuation that Russian agencies were involved in the poisoning of Sergey and Yuliya Skripal in Salisbury, England this past March.

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RT reports:

The US is imposing new sanctions on Russia over the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK. The measures are scheduled to go into effect on or around August 22, according to the State Department.

“The United States…determined under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 (CBW Act) that the government of the Russian Federation has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law, or has used lethal chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement on Wednesday.

The accusation comes despite there being zero evidence suggesting Moscow was behind the attack.

A State Department official told reporters in a conference call on Wednesday that Washington informed Russia “this afternoon” about the sanctions. The US still wants to maintain relations with Moscow, despite the new sanctions. “We are tough on Russia, at the same time we are quite committed to working to maintain relations because there are important things at stake here,” the official said, as quoted by Sputnik.

London was predictably delighted and rushed to welcome Washington’s announcement of new punitive actions against Moscow. “The UK welcomes this further action by our US allies,” a spokesman for the UK Foreign Office said in a statement. “The strong international response to the use of a chemical weapon on the streets of Salisbury sends an unequivocal message to Russia that its provocative, reckless behavior will not go unchallenged.”

The Duran has followed this case very closely, and there has never been evidence provided by British or international agencies investigating this incident or its sequel that happened last month, to prove conclusively that Russian agencies were involved in poisoning former USSR Spy Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yuliya, in Salisbury in March of this year.

The news of this new set of sanctions was apparently enough to create jitters on the Russian stock exchanges, and the Russian Ruble has fallen to a new 2018 low against the American dollar. Trading went over 66 rubles to the dollar. This marks almost a 20% devaluation in the currency since April of this year, and the worst valuation since mid-November, 2016.

This incident has not gone unanswered in Moscow. The Russian Embassy in the United States called for documentation about the source and reasoning behind these new sanctions, as reported by TASS:

The Russian embassy in the United States has called on the US Department of State to publish correspondence on the introduction of new sanctions on Moscow over the Skripal incident, the embassy said in a statement.

“We suggested publishing our correspondence on this issue. No answer has followed so far,” the Russian embassy added.

This pattern of throwing out destructive slander while refusing to provide opportunity for a real answer has permeated American policy towards the Russian Federation with increasing intensity since 2013. It reveals the machinations of a very divided American government, with the “deep State” or establishment politicians and foreign policy makers completely unwilling to even give Russia a fair shake at representing itself.

Sergey and Yuliya Skripal, who were poisoned in Salisbury, England in March 2018. No one really knows who did this.

This policy is shared by the United Kingdom, as this piece by The Duran’s Editor in Chief, Alexander Mercouris shows, with this summary of violations of due process the British authorities are committing with regard to Russia:

(1) The British government is interfering in the conduct of a criminal investigation, with Prime Minister Theresa May and especially Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson pointing fingers at who they say is guilty (Russia) whilst the criminal investigation is still underway;

(2) The British government has said that unless Russia proves itself innocent within a specific time the British government will conclude that it is guilty.  As I have explained previously this reverses the burden of proof: in a criminal case it is the prosecution which is supposed to prove the defendant’s guilt, not the defendant who must prove his innocence;

(3) The British government refuses to share with Russia – the party it says is guilty – the ‘evidence’ upon which it says it has concluded that Russia is guilty, the evidence in this case being a sample of the chemical with which it says Sergey and Yulia Skripal was poisoned.

This violates the fundamental principle that the defendant must be provided with all the evidence against him so that he can properly prepare his defence;

(4) The British government is not following the procedure set out in Article IX (2) of the Chemical Weapons Convention to which both Britain and Russia are parties.  This reads as follows

States Parties should, whenever possible, first make every effort to clarify and resolve, through exchange of information and consultations among themselves, any matter which may cause doubt about compliance with this Convention, or which gives rise to concerns about a related matter which may be considered ambiguous. A State Party which receives a request from another State Party for clarification of any matter which the requesting State Party believes causes such a doubt or concern shall provide the requesting State Party as soon as possible, but in any case not later than ten days after the request, with information sufficient to answer the doubt or concern raised along with an explanation of how the information provided resolves the matter.

(5) The British authorities are denying the Russians consular access to Yulia Skripal, though she is a Russian citizen who the British authorities say was subjected to a criminal assault on their territory.

This is a potentially serious matter since by preventing consular access to Yulia Skripal the British authorities are not only violating the interstate consular arrangements which exist between Britain and Russia, but they are preventing the Russian authorities from learning more about the condition of one of their citizens who has been hospitalised following a violent criminal assault, and are preventing the Russian authorities from carrying out their own investigation into the assault on one of their citizens which the British authorities say has taken place.

I would add that this obstruction of Russian consular access to Yulia Skripal has gone almost entirely unreported in the British and Western media.

The Americans are playing the same game here, and, regrettably, President Trump’s overtures towards repairing this relationship are almost sure to be torn out from under him by the actions of this virulent group of people. It is quite possible that this is the very reason for these new sanctions.

The perspective of the American government as one divided, with a rabid force in favor of continuing to isolate and vilify a great power in the world for no good reason, is sure to have repercussions. However, given the gradual realignment of Russia and China to be in closer and closer partnership, and Russia’s increasing prominence in Asian and Eastern Hemisphere affairs, the end result of this behavior is likely to damage the United States and its standing in the world over the long run.

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HamletquestfoxenburgRex drabbleNicole TempleHappyCynic Recent comment authors
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Hamletquest
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Hamletquest

Another round of the echo chamber of lies. Novichok a story cooked up by retired MI6 spooks to feed their pension pots drags itself onto the geopolitical stage again… What’s it about and who benefits? Well it ain’t about facts as there are none. But it gives the Neo-cons another pop at Trump, the Tories another distraction from the impending BREXIT chaos and Browder another attempt to avoid prosecution in Russia for fraud and the US for perjury. The WMSM are dutifully using this as another attempt to reinforce the lies it has been spinning about Russia since the Georgian… Read more »

foxenburg
Guest
foxenburg

“there has never been evidence provided by British or international agencies investigating this incident or its sequel that happened last month, to prove conclusively that Russian agencies were involved”

What do you mean “prove conclusively”? This “conclusively” is a weasel word. It implies there’s a lot of proof out there but none that could be called conclusive. There’s been no proof of any kind whatsoever.

Rex drabble
Guest
Rex drabble

They are desperate to start a war,its going to get worse.
Thankfully Russia has the means to stop these clowns in their steps,if and when the time comes.

Nicole Temple
Guest
Nicole Temple

Here is an interesting look at how the anti-Russian narrative began in the United States and who really rigged the 2016 U.S. election:

https://viableopposition.blogspot.com/2018/07/the-genesis-of-russian-interference.html

Main Street America is being manipulated into believing that Russia is the enemy, giving Washington a complete pass on how business is done in America’s political capital.

HappyCynic
Guest
HappyCynic

The game being played is asymmetric sanctions. No US airlines fly directly to Russia, but Aeroflot flies directly from Russia to the US. So a simple-minded view of this is that sanctioning Aeroflot doesn’t harm US interests, and it lets Trump appear like he’s being hard on Russia (he has elections coming up). It’s a game of appearances – nobody in the US (except the simple-minded) actually believe the Novachuk nonsense, but it’s a good club to pound on political opponents. The question is whether Russia will let Trump do this – suffering minor economic damage and turning the other… Read more »

Eggie Offo
Guest
Eggie Offo

Russia’s weakness will cost it dearly because of Putin’s passivity and aloofness, contemptible timidity, and unprincipledness . It’s time for Russia to stop answering all questions relating to election meddling to poisoning, and being nice to Trump, for respect because Putin wants to meet and interact with Trump at all cost to feel relevant to the US , which is pathetic and a humiliation to all Russians I am also sad. The so-called western world just makes Russia looks stupid internationally. I also don’t understand why Russia is “soooooo” eager to work or to be in the good books of… Read more »

AM Hants
Guest
AM Hants

‘Destructive slander’ – what does the US gain, besides trying to divert media attention, from other stories? Create problems, with the financial markets. Timing – when the US is desperate to go to war with Iran, whilst nobody is backing them up. Theresa May is horse trading her ‘Remoaner friendly BREXIT’ script, over in the EU. Christopher Steele – Trump Dossier – Skripal – $US millions invested in Porton Down, just around the corner from Salisbury. Rand Paul, who passed a private letter from President Trump, to be handed over to President Putin. ……………………. Is it the official view of… Read more »

voza0db
Guest

The novichok magic cream
comment image

if it wasn’t the cream, it would have been some other nonsense excuse like “The Russian Cows are emitting more CH4 than any others!”

The United States of Terrorism is quickly eroding in terms of POWER! Their society is dying… And that’s why they need to bring everyone down.

VeeNarian (Yerevan)
Guest
VeeNarian (Yerevan)

Trump is the POTUS but not in power. Like love-struck teenagers he is even not allowed to meet Putin on his own. As if the two would spawn the son of Satan together in their long-delayed honeymoon in Helsinki.
H-E-L-L-L-L-L-S-I-N-K-E-E-E-E!!!
Trump will sign any sanction against Russia. The only question is if he will give the orders that will start WW3, especially if the “US intelligence agencies” were to hold his family hostage.
That letter from Trump, carried by the only loyal US senator Rand Paul, really looks ominous.

James Johnson
Guest
James Johnson

Is Trump so badly influenced that he doesn’t see that Tarese May has accused but not proven any thing

Taras77
Guest
Taras77

This probably goes into the twiight zone if one is searching for logic; state dept neo con thugs unfortunately have trumps ear as I do not believe that trump could dream up something this stupid by himself.

This skripal hoax has been laughed out of the park world wide and to come up with this now after trump did try to act responsibly by meeting with putin, it goes beyond what any rational person could conceive.

SPQR
Guest
SPQR

So Trump is either impotent (unable to control the rats that infest the US state department) or a fool… perhaps he is both but the author of this piece will no doubt continue to excuse his many failings as commander in chief. I’m tired of all the excuses, all the misderections regarding the myserious ‘deep state’ upon whose shoulders is placed the blame for the insanity that has gripped Washington DC. Trump owns this mess and has done from day one of his presidency.

Spike Munch
Guest
Spike Munch

there is ample evidence; cctv, witnesses, etc. but it isn’t being put into the public domain because this remains an ongoing investigation, but USA issuing more sanctions against russia seems to indicate the the intelligence agencies are sharing information and that information has convinced the USA to sanction more

louis robert
Guest
louis robert

Time for Russia to recall its ambassador to Washington and break diplomatic relations with the Empire altogether. Sooner or later, Russia will be forced to do so by said Empire anyway. In actual fact, this is war, total war, unavoidable war, as has been crystal clear all along. Come to terms with it, Russia, before it’s too late!

Gonzogal
Guest
Gonzogal

comment image comment imagecomment imagecomment image

ColinNZ
Guest
ColinNZ

“The pattern of slandering all things Russia with or without (usually without) the burden of proof continues in the US.”

Terrible article, implying there sometimes IS proof. I don’t usually swear but I really am tired of the bollocks Hanisch writes.

Jack
Guest
Jack

We all know that Skripals are another pretext. Where there is a will there is a way so do not forget that American politician are acting not only on their own but under a huge lobby of influential not satisfied Russians who live in US and moreover by Jews of Russian origin who together want overthrow patriotic Gov of Putin’s Russia and put instead in the helm somebody like former president Yelcin to subjugate the country which enable them exploit and rob Russia of valuable natural resources stuffing their pockets and making Russians their slaves. So Putin has to act… Read more »

AM Hants
Guest
AM Hants

Look at how the US State Department handles unsubstantiated claims against Russia or Syria and how they handle claims against Saudi behaviour in Yemen? The pure hypocrisy.

Watch Reporters Slam US For Refusing To Condemn Saudi-US Airstrike On Yemen School Bus In Live Briefing… https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-08-09/watch-reporters-slam-us-refusing-condemn-saudi-coalition-airstrike-yemen-school-bus

Gio Con
Guest
Gio Con

The Israelis are on a killing spree in Gaza and the Saudis just blew up a bus full of children in Yemen, but the degenerate US congress and president are laying draconian sanctions on Russia and Iran for … committing … no crimes … whatsoever.

spoint
Guest
spoint

Release the Soviet files showing the holocaust is a total Soviet/ US lie. Say it over and over. Then aim all retaliation at israel.

anastasia157
Guest
anastasia157

The evidence is mounting, especially with the drug addicts getting poisoned after leaving their drug den, that someone other than Russia is using novichok poison.

anastasia157
Guest
anastasia157

The reason is quite clear to anyone with eyes to see.. It’s about making money for people inside government and their oligarchs on the outside of government. They want to weaken Russia economically and wipe out the competition on the gas

anastasia157
Guest
anastasia157

Two people, who clearly look like and act like drug addicts, and who admit they are drug addicts, and who admit they had just been to a drug den before the poisoning, were poisoned with novichok. This drug den is located nearby to the park where the Skripals were found poisoned. Did the Skripals just ingest some recreational drug that they obtained by the nearby drug den? It’s growing more ridiculous and obvious by the day, and the more obvious it becomes that Russia did not do it, the more sanctions they are imposing on them. It is almost as… Read more »

AriusArmenian
Guest
AriusArmenian

The Skripal poisoning is a hoax but more aptly should be called a classic false flag attack. The CIA/MI6 use the false flag to enforce the hate and fear Russia narrative to push along the evolving Cold War v2 that they love so much (vermin that they are).

Most will never regret what they did even into old age as they are so wrapped up and identify with their sick worldview. The are criminals aided and abetted by US elites.

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Theresa May’s soft Brexit plan continues to fail, as EU now pushing for UK to leave (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 138.

Alex Christoforou

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Theresa May’s soft Brexit strategy has been such a monumental failure that even Brussels negotiators are now pushing for the UK to simply leave the union, in what has becoming a British debacle, and a thorn in the Conservative Party’s side.

Many media pundits and analysts are now asking if the latest impasse in Brexit talks means that we are indeed seeing the last days of Theresa May?

While much of the mess the Conservative Party finds themselves in because of Brexit is squarely Theresa May’s fault, much of the damage done by May’s inability to close the deal on Brexit will not go away, even if she does.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s continued failure to obtain her soft Brexit dream, placing herself (and her Conservative Party) in such an embarrassing position, that European Union negotiators, tired of never ending talks, are eager to see Britain go away, in what will be an inevitable hard Brexit.

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“Are these the last days of Theresa May?”, authored by Stephen Bush via The New Statesman:


Are these the last days of Theresa May? This morning’s papers are full of stories of plots and ultimatums to the Prime Minister unless she changes her Brexit strategy, whether from her Scottish MPs over any extension of the transition period due to concerns over fisheries policy, from her Brexiteer MPs over the backstop or from her Cabinet over practically everything.

All this before the Budget next Monday, when Philip Hammond is going to have to find some way to pay for the extra cash for the NHS and Universal Credit all while keeping to May’s pledge that debt will continue to fall as a share of GDP. So added to all May’s Brexit woes, a row over tax rises could be coming down the track.

Of course, the PM’s position has been perilous for a very long time – in fact, when you remember that her period of hegemony ran from July 2016 to June 2017, she’s actually been under threat for more of her premiership than she hasn’t. But just because you roll heads 36 times in a row doesn’t mean your chances of rolling tails aren’t 50/50 on roll 37, and May’s luck could well be running out.

But while May shares a good size of the blame for the mess that the Conservative Party are in, it’s not all her fault by any means and none of those problems will go away if May is replaced or changes tack to win over her internal opponents in the European Research Group.

Ireland has a veto over the end state and only an indefinite and legally binding backstop for the island of Ireland will do if any deal is to be signed off. It’s true to say that no deal also means a hard border on the island of Ireland, but it’s also true that it will always been in the political interests of whoever is in office in Ireland for a hard border to be imposed as a result of no deal rather than for the Irish government to acquiesce in the creation of one through a EU-UK treaty.

The DUP can bring the Conservative government to an early end so they, too, have a de facto veto over any deal that creates barriers between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. But the only UK-wide solution – for the backstop to encompass the whole of the United Kingdom – is nothing doing with pro-Brexit Conservative MPs who don’t want an indefinite backstop. It’s also politically tricky with many EU member states, who don’t want the default outcome of the talks to be a UK-wide backstop, which many regard as a threat to the sanctity of single market. (The only reason why it is acceptable on the Irish border is because Ireland is still a member state and because the Irish border was both the location and the cause of political violence within living memory.)

Added to that, the Conservative parliamentary party seems to be undergoing a similar psychological journey to the one that Steve van Riel described during the 2015 Labour leadership election: that groups of any kind tend to reach a more extreme position the longer an issue is debated. Brexiteers who spent 20 years saying they wanted a Norway style deal now talk of Norway as a betrayal. Leavers who cheerily talked about making Northern Ireland into its own customs area before Brexit now talk of the backstop as a constitutional betrayal. And Conservative Remainers who only reluctantly backed an In vote to avoid the political upheaval of negotiating Brexit, or the loss of David Cameron, now call for a referendum re-run and privately flirt with the idea of a new party.

Some of that is May’s fault, yes. But none of it is going to go away if she does and all of it makes the prospect of reaching a Brexit deal considerably less likely.

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Saudi Crown Prince Spoke To Khashoggi By Phone Moments Before He Was Killed: Report

The shifting Saudi narrative of the killing has been met with scepticism and condemnation from the international community.

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Via Zerohedge


In the latest bombshell report involving the Khashoggi murder, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly spoke on the phone with journalist Jamal Khashoggi moments before he was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish pro-government daily Yeni Safak disclosed the new alleged details of the case in a report on Sunday, contradicting claims by Saudi authorities that Prince Mohammed played no part in Khashoggi’s murder.

“Khashoggi was detained by the Saudi team inside the consulate building. Then Prince Mohammed contacted Khashoggi by phone and tried to convince him to return to Riyadh,” the report said.

“Khashoggi refused Prince Mohammed’s offer out of fear he would be arrested and killed if he returned. The assassination team then killed Khashoggi after the conversation ended,” it added.

While the report is so far unconfirmed, the New Arab reports that so far Turkish pro-government media have been receiving a steady stream of leaks many of which turned out to be accurate, including pictures of the hit team as they entered Turkey and reports of audio recordings of the murder said to be in the possession of Turkish authorities.

Meanwhile, the Saudi version of events has been changing significantly over the past two weeks with authorities conceded Saturday that Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist and a Riyadh critic, was killed inside the kingdom’s Istanbul diplomatic compound following a “brawl”. The admission came after a fortnight of denials with the insistence that the journalist left the consulate alive, starting on October 5, when Crown Prince MBS told Bloomberg that Khashoggi was not inside the consulate and “we are ready to welcome the Turkish government to go and search our premises”.

On Saturday, the kingdom announced it had fired five top officials and arrested 18 others in an investigation into the killing – a move that has widely been viewed as an attempt to cover up the crown prince’s role in the murder.

The shifting Saudi narrative of the killing has been met with scepticism and condemnation from the international community, and has left the U.S. and other allies struggling for a response on Sunday. As Bloomberg reports, France demanded more information, Germany put arms sales to Riyadh on hold and the Trump administration stressed the vital importance of the kingdom and its economy to the U.S.

In Sunday radio and TV interviews, Dominic Raab, the U.K. politician in charge of negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union, described the latest Saudi account as not credible; French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called for “the truth’’; and Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said his government would approve no arms sales so long as the investigation was ongoing.

Earlier on Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir acknowledged a cover-up attempt. The dramatic reversal, after Saudi officials had previously said the columnist left the building alive, has only complicated the issue for allies.

Saudi Arabia’s al-Jubeir told Fox News on Sunday that the journalist’s death was an “aberration.”

“There obviously was a tremendous mistake made and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to cover up,” he said, promising that “those responsible will be punished for it.”

More importantly, he said that Prince Mohammed had no knowledge of the events, although if the Turkish report is confirmed, it will be yet another major flaw with the official narrative.

Several senior members of US President Donald Trump’s Republican Party said they believed Prince Mohammed was linked to the killing, and one called for a “collective” Western response if a link is proved. In an interview with The Washington Post, President Trump, too, said the Saudi narrative had been marked by “deception and lies.’’ Yet he also defended Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a “strong person,’’ and said there was no proof of his involvement in Khashoggi’s death. Some members of Congress have questioned his willingness to exonerate the prince.

“Obviously there’s been deception and there’s been lies,” Trump said on the shifting accounts offered by Riyadh.

On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised to disclose details about the case at a meeting of his AK Party’s parliamentary faction on Tuesday, Haberturk newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, as Western firms and high-ranked officials scramble to avoid any Saudi involvement, Russia is more than happy to step in and fill the power vacuum void left by the US. As a result, Russian businesses are flocking to attend the investment forum in Saudi Arabia, as Western counterparts pull out.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has had considerable success boosting Moscow’s influence in the Middle East at U.S. expense, by standing by regimes that fall afoul of the West, including in Syria and Iran. Last week Putin signed a strategic and partnership agreement with Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, backed by $25 billion in loans to build nuclear reactors. Until El-Sisi came to power, Egypt had been closely allied to the U.S.

Meanwhile, all eyes are fixed squarely on the Crown Prince whose position of power is looking increasingly perilous. Congressional leaders on Sunday dismissed the story proffered earlier by the Saudis, with Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bob Corker of Tennessee saying they believed the crown prince was likely involved in Khashoggi’s death.

Lawmakers said they believe the U.S. must impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia or take other action if the crown prince is shown to have been involved. Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, said the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. should be formally expelled until a third-party investigation is done. He said the U.S. should call on its allies to do the same.

“Unless the Saudi kingdom understands that civilized countries around the world are going to reject this conduct and make sure that they pay a price for it, they’ll continue doing it,”’ Durbin said.

The obvious question is what happens and how the Saudi royal family will respond if it is pushed too far, and whether the worst case scenario, a sharp cut in oil exports, could be on the table if MBS feels like he has little to lose from escalating the situation beyond a point of no return.

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The Biggest Winners In The Mediterranean Energy War

Energy companies are flocking to the Mediterranean after oil and gas discoveries in the territorial waters of Israel, Cyprus, and Egypt.

The Duran

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Authored by Vanand Meliksetian via Oilprice.com:


Former Vice-President of the United States Dick Cheney once said: “the good lord didn’t see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratically elected states… Occasionally we have to operate in places where, all considered, one would not normally choose to go. But we go where the business is.” Europe is surrounded by states with abundant energy resources, but supply from these countries is not always as reliable. Russia, for example, is regularly accused of using energy as a weapon. However, major discoveries of gas in the Eastern Mediterranean could mitigate dependence on Russian gas.

The discovery of a gas field named Tamar near the coast of Israel in 2009 set off a wave of investments in the energy sector. After 9 years, companies are flocking to the region after other discoveries in the territorial waters of Israel, Cyprus, and Egypt. Ever larger finds in the Mediterranean Sea’s Levant Basin such as the Leviathan gas field in 2010 and Zohr in 2015, have the potential to transform the strategic importance of the region.

Turkey’s energy hub ambitions

Few states in the world are geographically so well positioned as Turkey. The country controls Russia’s only warm water port in the Black Sea and serves as a bridge between east and west. Therefore, during the Cold War Ankara was an indispensable member of NATO. More recently, Turkey has the ambition to become an energy hub for Middle Eastern and Caspian energy. Ankara has had mixed successes in attracting investors and maintaining political stability.

After Israel’s significant discoveries, a U.S. backed initiative presented Turkey as an energy hub. Although a land pipeline is the cheapest option to transport gas from the Mediterranean to Europe, political developments have stalled construction. President Erdogan’s escalating public denunciations of Israel have made Jerusalem look for other options. Furthermore, relations with Europe have also been damaged which would be dependent on Turkey as a transit country.

Egypt as the regional gas hub

Egypt’s has the third largest gas reserves in Africa. Therefore, its export-oriented LNG industry came on-stream in 2004 but was shut mid-2013 due to a lack of resources. The growth of the domestic market demanded ever larger volumes, which went at the expense of exports. Instead, Egypt started importing LNG. However, the discovery of the massive Zohr gas field, the largest in the Eastern Mediterranean, has turned around the situation. Egypt imported its last shipment of LNG in September 2018.

Although relations between Egypt and Israel are far from normal, privately held companies have been able to strike a deal. Starting from the first quarter of 2019, in 10 years 64 bcm worth $10 billion will be delivered. The agreement has stirred controversy in Egypt, which until recently was exporting to Israel. However, with this deal, Cairo comes closer in becoming an energy hub.

The recent signing of another agreement, this time with Nicosia to develop a subsea pipeline from Cyprus’ Aphrodite gas field, has been another important step. Cypriot gas will be pumped 400 miles (645 kilometers) to the south to Egypt’s LNG facilities. Difficult relations with Nicosia’s northern neighbors make a pipeline to the north highly unlikely.

Cairo has been able to act pragmatically concerning its relations with its neighbors such as Israel while taking advantage of the limited amount of options for exporting gas. The obvious winner in this context has been Egypt and its LNG industry. Its chances of becoming the regional energy hub instead of Turkey have significantly increased.

Turkey’s hope for luck

All littoral states of the Eastern Mediterranean struck ‘gold’ in the shape of natural gas except for Turkey. Ankara strongly opposes the exploitation of the gas resources in the exclusive economic zone of the Republic of Cyprus without a sharing agreement with Northern Cyprus’ Turkish inhabitants. The Turkish Navy prevented ships from Italy’s Eni from performing exploratory drilling off the coast of the Republic of Cyprus.

In search of its own luck, Ankara has set up a project to start looking for gas in the EEZ of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is only recognized by Turkey. Kudret Özersay, TRNC deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, proclaimed the desire to turn the TRNC into an energy and electricity hub. However, it seems unlikely that investors will be willing to participate due to political and legal reasons.

The legal situation of the TRNC is an impediment to any major decision involving a longtime commitment worth billions. From an international point of view, the region is de jure part of the Republic of Cyprus, despite holding no control over the region. The TRNC holds no seat in the WTO.

Large investments require solid legal and political support for companies to earn back their investments. The current economic situation of Turkey makes it dependent on foreign money. However, stringent due diligence rules could impede some international banks in lending the necessary funds.

The Eastern Mediterranean Sea basin promises great rewards, but the risks are also high. With Turkey potentially being the only country that doesn’t profit from the gas bonanza, Ankara has acted aggressively to get what it regards as its fair share. However, it faces a united front from the other littoral states of the Eastern Mediterranean. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that Turkey will be able to profit in the same way as Cyprus, Egypt or Israel.

By Vanand Meliksetian for Oilprice.com

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