Background - Noble Energy is drilling for nat gas in international waters off the southern coast of Cyprus. This is in an economic zone agreed by Israel, Cyprus and Egypt. However, Turkey wants the gas and has threatened everyone from the Americans to the Israelis to the Cypriots. There's a tit-for-tat now going on between the Israelis and Turks - as can be previewed in the article below.
Big picture, it's in Israel's (and Europe's) interest to set up a pipe for nat gas delivery through Greece into Europe. At present, Turkey has a significant number of pipelines into EU and this would curtail a significant source of their power in the region.
So - how does this go down? If this does blow up into a war between Turkey and Israel, who wins?
Turkish warships harass Israeli freighters. Israeli missile boats off Cyprus
Increasingly assertive Turkey is setting the scene for clashes in the eastern Mediterranean. Since Thursday, Sept. 29, Turkish warships have been harassing Israeli merchant vessels in waters off Cyprus, debkafile's military sources report. They come close enough to establish wireless communication and caution the Israeli vessels they are in contravention of international law and ordering them to change course. The Israeli crews mostly ignore these "orders", treating them as Ankara's latest bid to assert Turkish naval mastery of the Eastern Mediterranean. But the situation is getting explosive enough to spark a major incident.
Over the weekend, Israeli Air Force planes circled near the sites of the incidents but not directly over the Turkish vessels. At the same time Israeli missile ships sailed close to Cyprus's Exclusive Economic Zone waters, where the Houston-based Noble Energy began drilling for natural gas on Sept. 19 in the face of Turkish threats. The rig is situated 160 kilometers south of Cyprus adjacent to Israel's Leviathan gas field.
Western naval sources tracking the new Turkish and Israeli deployments reported Saturday, Oct. 1: "Turkey and Israel are in a constant muscle-flexing contest in the eastern Mediterranean. They are metaphorically shaking fists in each other's faces and raising the risk of a confrontation that could quickly veer out of control."
Last week, Ankara retaliated for Cypriot and Israeli deep sea gas explorations by sending an exploration ship of its own escorted by a frigate and a submarine to Cyprus. Ankara sources also disclosed that Turkish F-16 fighters had been deployed in the northern part of the island.
Voicing concern over Turkey's assertiveness, NATO secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Friday, Sept. 30, said: "Obviously, the tensions between Turkey and Israel are a matter of concern. It's a bilateral issue – NATO is not going to interfere with that. But it is the interest of the alliance to see these tensions eased, because Turkey is a key ally and Israel is a valuable partner for the alliance."
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