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May 25, 2016 / 17 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Cyprus’

Arab Terrorists Open Fire at Qalandiya Checkpoint

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

Arab terrorists opened fire Tuesday morning at IDF personnel at the Qalandiya checkpoint north of Jerusalem.

The attack took place during a visit to the outpost by a security team from Cyprus.

No injuries were reported. However, a bullet hit one of the military vehicles, according to the Hebrew-language 0404 website.

Israeli forces searched the area and raised the alert level. It appears the attack came from within Qalandiya.

Hana Levi Julian

Cypriot Police Arrest Hijacker of EgyptAir Flight 181

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

Cypriot authorities arrested the hijacker of EgyptAir Flight MS181 shortly after 2:30pm local time at Lanarca International Airport, according to the Cyprus Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was wearing a wired-up explosives belt at the time of his arrest, as seen in a photo posted on social media.

The hijacker of EgyptAir Flight MS181 had demanded that Egypt release female prisoners incarcerated in the country, according to some international sources. He had also demanded to see his ex-wife, who apparently lives on the island of Cyprus, in the village of Oroklini, not far from the airport.

Although previously identified as Libyan national Ibrahim Samaha, Egypt’s Civil Aviation Minister told media the hijacker’s name is Seif Eldin Mustafa. A passenger with dual U.S.-Egyptian citizenship who disembarked told the BBC that his name was Ibrahim Samaha, lending credence to the Egyptian minister’s statement.

The pilot was ordered to divert the plane from its route after its 8 am departure from Alexandria towards Cairo, landing at 8:46 am at Lanarca International Airport.

The hijacker initially asked Cypriot authorities for political asylum but there was no immediately response to the request. A Cypriot official boarded the plane to speak with the hijacker at approximately 11:03 am local time. He allegedly had also demanded to be flown to Istanbul, but was told by Captain Omar al-Gamal there was not enough fuel to reach that destination, according to Egyptian government spokesperson Hossein al-Queish, who spoke with CBC-TV.

Most of the passengers were released at midday. The pilot, co-pilot, a flight attendant and a security officer, as well as three foreign passengers of unknown nationality remained on the plane until nearly 2 pm.

The plane was hijacked early Tuesday morning shortly after its 8 am departure, according to the airline’s spokesperson. The A320 was originally reported to be carrying 81 passengers aboard upon departure from Borg El Arab Airport, but Egyptian aviation authorities said the aircraft was carrying 55 passengers and five crew members.

Israel’s Air Force scrambled fighter jets to ensure there would be no penetration into Israeli air space following the hijacking, according to Channel 2 News. When the aircraft landed at Lanarca International Airport, the IAF jets returned to base.

The Cairo government has been battling an uprising by the Sinai Province branch of the Da’esh (ISIS) terrorist organization (formerly the Sinai-based Ansar Beyt al-Maqdis terror group) since the July 2013 ouster of Muslim Brotherhood-backed former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi.

On November 23, 1985, Islamist terrorists hijacked EgyptAir Flight 648. During that incident, 58 people lost their lives.

Hana Levi Julian

Ya’alon: Iranian Appetite to Arm Terrorists Will Grow

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon issued a blunt warning Tuesday about the budding axis of evil in the region being formed by Iran, and its continuing active support for terror activity.

Speaking to reporters during a working visit to Cyprus on Wednesday, Ya’alon pointed out that Tehran has not stopped arming the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist group. He also noted that Hezbollah has tried to set up terror cells in Cyprus this past year as well – attempts that were foiled by Cypriot security forces.

“The State of Israel views Cyprus as a true friend. Relations between the defense establishments, militaries, and intelligence communities go back years, are deep, and important,” Ya’alon said.

Ya’alon signed a Status of Force agreement on Wednesday together with his Cypriot counterpart. The document strengthens cooperation between the militaries of the two nations.

The Israeli defense minister told reporters that “true friends” are becoming more important as the region becomes more unstable. In fact, Ya’alon said the region may be on the verge of launching World War III.

“Syria has turned into a playground in which powers play, as do terror organizations and the states that activate them. The situation is chaotic, not only in Syria but in other states in the Middle East, and it influences not only the area, but the whole of Europe…

“We are in the midst of a war between cultures. In a certain sense, this is a third world war, [albeit] in a different manner from what we have known,” he added. Any state prepared to help Israel in stabilizing the situation will find “a partner in us, including states we have no relations with,” Ya’alon said.

Iran is a main force driving this impending cyclone, he added.

“The Iranian regime, through the proxies it trains, funds, and arms, is trying to undermine stability in the Middle East and beyond.

“It attempts to spread the revolution, and stops at nothing, including ambitions to build a dangerous axis, which starts in Tehran, moves through Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, Sana’a, and other regional states,” Ya’alon said.

“Thus, the Iranian appetite to arm terror organizations that obey them, including Hamas and Hezbollah, will grow. The Iranians are trying to arm Hezbollah all of the time, including attempts that have occurred recently,” he said.

“The Western world must act with determination against the threat, since this common threat, whose values and ways are the opposite of ours, strives to disrupt our lives and create a reality we must not agree to.”

Hana Levi Julian

Russian Navy’s First Port Visit to Egypt in 21 Years

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Suddenly, even Vladimir Putin looks more attractive.  He looks, at least, like he actually intends to fight radical Islamism – in some of its varieties anyway.  In theory, he has some pull with Iran.  He can exert a certain level of “check” on the Syria crisis.  His relatively well armed nation sits on the other side of Erdogan’s wild-card Turkey, which keeps bouncing from China to Iran to NATO and back again.  He’s not “Europe” – not really – but “Europe” acknowledges that he has to be given a place at the table.

Maybe he doesn’t look attractive, exactly; maybe the word is interesting.  Whatever it is, it’s showing up in real forms now, in regional nations’ decisions in the Eastern Mediterranean.  Last week came the flurry of reports that Putin would visit Egypt in November and announce a major arms sale, which will inevitably serve as something of a counter-smack to the U.S. decision to halt arms deliveries to Egypt a few weeks ago.

The newer news is from Monday, November 11, when Russia’s Slava-class missile cruiser Varyag pulled into Alexandria for the Russian navy’s first port visit in Egypt since 1992.  Pundits of varying quality have rushed to speculate that Moscow will soon have the use of Egyptian ports as bases in the region.  I doubt that; Egypt is too anxious to retain her stature and independence of action – properly so – and doesn’t “need” to accord Russia such privileges to keep useful ties going between the two of them.

In the current, comparative disarray of some Arab governments in the region, Egypt’s actually looks solid and moderate, and has the overt support of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, as well as the tacit support of Israel – all of which are well armed, well connected regional powers with common interests in a status quo.  The situation over which Al-Sisi presides is different from that of the Nasser regime in the 1950s and 1960s, when it was so eager for the great-power patronage of the erstwhile Soviet Union.

Russia, for her part, is unlikely to press this issue.  Between Syria, Greece, Cyprus, Montenegro, and Malta, the Russian navy has a lot of options now for making temporary landfalls for logistics.  Moscow wouldn’t necessarily even save money by concluding more literal “basing” agreements in the Mediterranean.

But I’m sure we can expect to see the Russian navy welcomed in Egyptian ports.  This makes a noteworthy, and regrettable, contrast with the U.S. Navy, which has been scarce in Egyptian ports in recent years – in spite of our two nations’ close relationship – largely because of the threat of terrorism.

Egypt, meanwhile, isn’t the only nation to roll out the welcome mat for the Russian navy in the past year.  In May, the Russian amphibious ship Azov arrived in Haifa for the first port visit ever by a Russian navy ship to Israel.  Russia and Israel have of course found some common ground in their opposition to radical Islamism, and the Netanyahu government has had a robust program of diplomatic outreach to Russia since it took over in the spring of 2009.  After Putin visited Jerusalem in June 2012 to pray for the rebuilding of the Temple, a naval port visit could hardly have been far behind.

Russian warships also visited Lebanon in March 2013, an exceedingly rare occurrence.  According to Russia’s defense ministry, the visit involved a frigate and two amphibious ships, and signified no intention on Moscow’s part to establish any permanent basing arrangement.

Cyprus hosted multiple visits by Russian warships in 2013, fueling the usual speculation that Moscow is negotiating for basing rights on the island.  (See here for more on Russia’s strategic approach to Cyprus.)  It has become routine in the last few years for Russian navy ships to visit ports in Greece and Malta.  Russian officials announced earlier this year that the navy’s newly constituted (or, in effect, reconstituted) Mediterranean squadron would use a port in Montenegro as well, referring to the port of Tivat (which for many years during the Cold War was a Yugoslav navy base, used as a Mediterranean base by the Soviet navy).  A September 2013 press release on the upcoming activities of amphibious landing ship Yamal indicated the ship would visit Greece and Montenegro this fall.

J. E. Dyer

Upping the Ante: 5 Russian Warships Enter the Mediterranean

Friday, May 17th, 2013

In its latest escalation of the international anxiety over the Syrian civil war, Russia announced on Thursday that a group of five warships from its Pacific Fleet have entered the Mediterranean sea to bolster a new regional task force, according to a fleet spokesman quoted on the state-owned news agency RIA Novosti.

“The task force has successfully passed through the Suez Canal and entered the Mediterranean. It is the first time in decades that Pacific Fleet warships enter this region,” Capt. First Rank Roman Martov said.

Novosti said the warships’ immediate destination was Limassol, on the island of Cyprus, where they will join Russia’s Mediterranean task force.

An official from the Russian Embassy in Beirut confirmed to the Daily Star of Lebanon that the ships were indeed in the Mediterranean, adding that it was merely a routine procedure.

First such routine procedure since 1992.

Russia maintains a military base in the port of Tartous, Syria.

Novosti said the vessels – including the destroyer Admiral Panteleyev, the amphibious warfare ships Peresvet and Admiral Nevelskoi, and a tanker and a tug – left the port of Vladivostok on March 19. The Russian plan to expand its naval presence near Syria was announced in April.

A permanent naval task force in the Mediterranean was needed to defend Russia’s interests in the region, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in March.

It’s like the Cold War never ended.

According to Novosti, a senior Defense Ministry official said the Mediterranean task force’s command and control agencies will be based either in Novorossiysk, Russia, or in Sevastopol, Ukraine.

The U.S. Navy’s 6th Fleet maintains its own permanent presence in the Mediterranean.

Yori Yanover

Moses’ Gift: Natural Gas in the Mediterranean

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Golda Meir once quipped that Moses could have done the Jewish people a better service. “He took us 40 years through the desert,” she said, “to bring us to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil.”

Today, Golda Meir’s quip has lost its punch. Last week, natural gas began flowing out of the Tamar gas field, discovered off the coast of Israel in January 2009. Tamar and Leviathan, its neighboring gas field, discovered in June 2010, are among the world’s largest recent offshore natural gas discoveries. The Israeli companies controlling the fields are even considering exporting gas to neighboring countries.

Geologists assume that commercial oil reserves may lie beneath the gas find. Some analysts say that the Tamar and Leviathan fields might change Israel’s position in the geopolitical and energy world. But not just Israel’s.

The Israeli fields are adjacent to the Aphrodite gas field, discovered in December 2011, which lies in Cypriot territorial waters, less than 25 miles west of Leviathan. The government in Nicosia expects that the result of offshore drillings will confirm later this year that the island is sitting on vast amounts of natural gas worth billions of dollars. The recent banking crisis in Cyprus –the latest episode in the saga of the collapsing euro – came too early for the country to benefit from its future natural gas wealth. It is, however, indicative that Cyprus turned down the European Union’s demands that the gas reserves be used as collateral for the loans which the E.U. has just extended to Cyprus.

Brussels had demanded that a fund be created in which it was given a direct say over the revenues from Cypriot gas reserves, but Nicosia refused to do so. The Cypriots feel betrayed by the E.U. Hence, they are not inclined to let Europe share in the future wealth which they hope to derive from gas. Nicos Anastasiades, the president of Cyprus, said that Cyprus had no other choice than give in to the harsh demand of Brussels that it dismantle its banking sector. He, however, promised that savers who lost money in the Cypriotic banks would be compensated by being given shares in banks guaranteed by the future natural gas revenues.

Today, Cyprus is paying a very heavy price for its membership of the E.U.’s common currency, the euro. When by 2019 the gas proceeds are expected to start flowing, the tables will be turned. Then Cyprus will be in a position to leave the euro without facing the prospect of national bankruptcy.

To begin extracting the gas from the Aphrodite field by 2019, however, the virtually bankrupt Cypriot government will in the coming years need to make enormous investments. The Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom, the largest extractor of natural gas in the world, seems keen to get involved. So far, however, the Cypriots have kept the Russians at bay.

Europe is already to a large extent dependent on Russian gas, supplied by Gazprom, a company controlled by the Russian oligarchy around President Putin. A quarter of Europe’s of Europe’s entire gas consumption comes from Gazprom. As a new player in the market of gas exporters, Cyprus could reduce the European dependency on Russian gas.

What applies to Cyprus, obviously, applies to Israel as well. It, too, could use its gas exports to a political end. Bat Ye’or has argued that the pro-Palestinian positions of the European governments since the 1970s were to a large extent the result of Europe’s dependency on Arab oil. Israel has a unique chance of also using the Cypriot gas to its own geostrategic benefit. The Cypriot gas fields are located halfway between the Cypriot and Israeli coast. Israel, Cyprus and Greece are already collaborating in the EuroAsia Interconnector project, which is an undersea power cable linking Israel with Cyprus and Cyprus with Greece. A gas pipeline following the same route would balance the current pipeline on the Baltic seabed linking Russia with Germany.

Another opportunity for Israel might be the fact that some international gas companies are reluctant to get involved in the exploitation of Cypriot gas fields because they also operate in Turkey and do not want to upset the Turkish authorities who oppose the Cypriot gas extraction. Though the Aphrodite gas field lies in waters across Southern Cyprus, Turkey is demanding that all gas revenues be shared with Turkish occupied Northern Cyprus.

Peter Martino

Cyprus: When the Law Prescribes Theft

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Who will shoulder the pain from the Cyprus bailout deal?

The first-order sufferers will be small businessmen (mostly Russian) and upper-middle Cypriots and foreign residents with their money in Cypriot banks.  But the whole region will take a longer-term blow from the loss of Cyprus as a place for upstart businesses to park capital.  Capital that can’t be parked cheaply in the E.U. won’t be invested in the E.U. – at least not by the smaller, less financially “connected” entrepreneurs who drive economic dynamism and growth.

The big Russian firms that bank with the Russian Commercial Bank in Cyprus have protection in the deal, although they will have more trouble moving capital around under the “capital controls” to be implemented, which hwill keep depositors from draining their accounts.  Russia has been relatively quiet and mild on the terms of the Cyprus deal, largely because the biggest Russian depositors in Cyprus bank with the Russian Commercial Bank and won’t be hit with the 40% “amputation” tax on their accounts.  For the average traditionally-autocratic government, smaller entrepreneurs are always easier to accept as roadkill.  They may create jobs and revenue, but they aren’t in a position to line politicians’ pockets and they’re not easy to marshal as a means of geopolitical leverage – unlike, say, Gazprom.

It will hurt the E.U. for Russians to flee Cyprus; it will hurt equally for only the biggest, most state-connected Russians to remain in Cyprus.  All the Russians won’t necessarily flee,  but if nothing else changes, and the bank deal defines the future, the dynamism of the Russian economic presence in Cyprus will be bled off.  The economy of Cyprus will become more of an elephants’ dance than a coyote squabble, even with the gas eventually coming up from the ocean floor.  Cyprus will go further down the road taken by too much of the E.U., discouraging entrepreneurship and overserving itself on the future obligations.

Italy and Spain are obvious others to bring up, of course, and everyone is doing that.  Besides serious debt and bank-solvency problems, they have already gone further down the controlled-economy road than Cyprus has (which is the main reason for their debt and solvency problems).  Their big-name companies, the international giants, are incapable of growing the economy, because it doesn’t work that way.  The big firms aren’t the future.  Small entrepreneurship is always and everywhere the future, and in Italy and Spain, engaging in it openly is discouraged by regulation and the tax code.

There is a regional aspect to this, of course; a difference among points of the compass, inside both countries, and between city and hinterland.  Such differences are creating fault lines throughout the E.U.  Those gaps aren’t going to narrow any time soon.  Now is a good time for the E.U. to take stock and recognize that the entire Cyprus problem, like the Greece problem, was created by the actions of government.

Left to their own devices, people coming together for economic activity don’t do this to themselves.  Failure is liquidated; it is not enshrined in policy.  But governments do the opposite, propping up and enabling failure for as long as they can, because they insist for political reasons on the policies that make it inevitable.  Government’s perspective is always political, and therefore inimical to economic efficiency.  The more government is chartered to control, the richer a society has to be to afford it.  And unfortunately, there’s a kind of “peak government” rule to this: a society in which government controls too much cannot stay rich.

The U.S. is headed down this path too, but most of the E.U. is already further down it.  The E.U. and its individual nations created this problem through policy.  There’s a political relief-valve aspect to making “the Russians” pay for it (although the FT article linked to above points out that at-risk Russians expect to find ways to get their money away from the amputator’s saw).  But the Cyprus crisis illustrates nicely that the cost of over-regulatory government will lead to outright theft from the people.  Policy as cosmically comprehensive as that in the E.U. model will indebt everyone, until theft seems to be the only option left.

This isn’t a condition for stability.  Moscow hasn’t given up on Cyprus, which still sits enticingly athwart Turkey and Europe.  The Cyprus deal won’t last very long – not while Cyprus and the E.U. remain in the vise of the E.U.’s negative, defensive policies.  (If the Russians sneak enough of their money out, the Cyprus deal won’t last long enough to auction off the office supplies with the Laiki logo).

J. E. Dyer

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/j-e-dyer/cyprus-when-the-law-prescribes-theft/2013/03/31/

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