Global energy experts set to meet in Turkey

The Turkish energy minister and a senior economist are to deliver speeches at the opening of the Anadolu Agency co-sponsored, 20th International Energy and Environment Fair due to be held in Istanbul on April 24.

The convention, to be held over three days at the Istanbul Expo Center, will be the largest energy and environment fair to be held in Turkey, attracting approximately 16,000 local and foreign participants.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz will open the fair, and International Energy Agency Chief Economist Fatih Birol will deliver a speech during the opening ceremony.

International energy experts will discuss a variety of issues including renewable energy technologies, developments in the renewable energy market, the operation and maintenance of power plants, nuclear power, natural gas and petroleum and the financing of energy projects and energy law.

The Anadolu Agency’s Deputy Director General Cagatay Culcuoglu will also chair a session entitled, “Nuclear energy and the latest developments in Turkey.”

WP

The New Strategic Reality in the Black Sea

The crisis in Ukraine, which led to annexation of Crimea by Russia in March 2014, had an immediate impact on the strategic situation across the entire Black Sea region. Russia emerged as a clear beneficiary mostly at the expense of Ukraine. The new situation will now have repercussions for other regional actors, in particular Turkey and Romania, and will lead to the increased involvement of the United States. However, Washington will likely prefer to support Romania over Turkey in an attempt to avoid the creation of a potential Russo-Turkic geopolitical duopoly in the region.

Russian gains

The annexation of Crimea has greatly increased Russia’s strategic footprint in the Black Sea region. From a military perspective, the peninsula can serve as an outpost for extending power projection towards southern Ukraine, the Balkans and Turkey.  Now that Moscow’s military presence is no longer constrained by former legal agreements with the Ukrainian side, it can fully utilise the geostrategic potential of Crimea by implementing a broad spectrum of mutually reinforcing instruments.  The Iskander surface-to-surface tactical ballistic missile, for example, with a 400 kilometre operational range, could cover the entire southern part of Ukraine – including important industrial cities like Odessa, Kryvyi Rih and Dnipropetrovsk, a large part of Moldova, the entire Romanian coastline and a significant part of the Turkish Black Sea coast. The surface-to-surface systems can be further complemented by long-range, anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles providing a full spectrum of capability to strike ground targets, interdict maritime traffic and impose no-fly zones.

The range of power projection can be further extended by employing air and naval assets. The Russian air force, through newly gained access to ex-Ukrainian air bases in Crimea, now has a broader presence covering almost the entire Black Sea coastline, Transnistria and southern Ukraine comfortably within its operational range. It’s worth stressing that the location of the Crimea peninsula makes it a very attractive place for stationing airborne troops, naval infantry and Spetsnaz (special operations forces) for potential deployment in southern Ukraine. The deployment of troops would be further facilitated in the near future by the acquisition of Mistral amphibious assault ships, of which one is to be allocated to the Russian Black Sea Fleet. The annexation of Crimea has also radically improved the capabilities of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. It has now gained unimpeded access to the Sevastopol naval base alongside an entire ex-Ukrainian naval infrastructure on the peninsula.

Before the Crimean crisis, the Black Sea Fleet had two cruisers, one destroyer, two frigates, ten corvettes and one diesel-powered submarine and constituted a major naval power in the region. Its potential was only exceeded by the Turkish Navy which splits its forces between the Black Sea and the Aegean and Mediterranean theatres. The potential of the Black Sea Fleet will be further increased after completion of an ambitious modernisation programme which will add six new frigates, six new submarines, a Mistral amphibious assault ship and several other smaller vessels. Assuming no radical changes to the naval potential of other countries in the region, the Russian Black Sea Fleet will soon equal or be greater than the combined fleets of all the other Black Sea coastal states.

Apart from the increase in its offensive capabilities, Russia will also see its defensive posture strengthen. Crimea offers Russia a strong forward defence point, particularly against potential air and sea incursions into the south-western regions of the Russian Federation. Anti-ship and anti-aircraft capabilities of Black Sea Fleet complemented by similar land-based systems on the peninsula will together create a strong line of defence ahead of the Russian mainland.

Emerging duopoly?

Consequences of the crisis have been almost entirely negative for Ukraine. Crimea was Ukraine’s window to the Black Sea and home to key naval bases in Sevastopol and Donuzlav Bay, which are now lost.  The Ukrainian navy has, at least temporarily, lost most of its warships during the Crimean crisis and currently has only one vessel capable of full-scale combat operations – the Hetman Sahaydachniy. The loss of naval bases in Crimea leaves Odessa as the primary and only alternative place for the dislocated Ukrainian Navy. However this naval base is potentially well within the operational range of missile systems located in Crimea and due to its geographic location, a Russian blockade would be relatively easy to execute.

The annexation of Crimea has significantly changed the balance of power in the region towards a more duopolistic geopolitical arrangement – between Russian and Turkey. To some extent, this arrangement resembles one from the 18th or 19th century. From the Turkish point-of-view, the immediate impact of the crisis is rather negative since the country has to now face a more powerful and assertive Russian presence in the Black Sea region resulting in the deterioration of Ankara’s relative position versus Moscow. The newly expanded Russian military presence will likely put Turkey in a more defensive position in the Black Sea.

Ankara has often voiced concerns about Russian actions in the region in the recent years. With the annexation of Crimea, however, it avoided challenging Moscow directly and can be seen as a result of Turkey’s “zero problems with neighbours” foreign policy. There is also a notable increase in trade and economic relations between both countries along with a significant dependence on Russian energy for Turkey. Both countries also recognise each other’s strength and position in the region and understand that a direct confrontation would have far reaching consequences, potentially destabilising vast areas across the Black Sea, Middle East, Caucasus and Central Asia.

The new balance of power also underlines Turkey’s role as the sole local actor capable of potentially challenging Russian expansion in the region. This increases the importance of Ankara on the international stage and elevates it further as an alternative to Moscow for smaller countries. Therefore, the crisis provides Turkey with an opportunity to capitalise on its status of a regional power. However, the extent of that impact will significantly depend on US policy choices and the degree to which Washington will actually decide to support Ankara directly rather than countering Russia by strengthening other actors in the region.

It’s already visible that one of results of the Ukrainian crisis will be an increased US presence in the region. Apart from more frequent naval visits to the Black Sea basin, Washington will likely extend different forms of support to its NATO allies. Despite Turkey being the strongest regional ally, it’s very likely that Bucharest will become a major, if not the main, recipient of increased US support. In general, Romania is likely to firmly establish itself, due to the degradation of Ukraine, as a third power in the region after Russia and Turkey. From the US perspective the country offers several strategic advantages. It’s the least dependent of the coastal states on Russian energy. It was also historically less pro-Russian than many other Balkan countries (e.g. Bulgaria, Serbia or Greece).  In addition the country offers a good access point to several critical areas in South-Eastern Europe as it’s located in the direct vicinity of the Balkans, Ukraine and the Black Sea. Romania’s convenient position can be used as a logistical hub to serve US forces en route to the Middle East or Central Asia. The country already hosts US military personnel, mainly at the Mihail Kogălniceanu air base. All these factors make Romania a good candidate for a buffer to potential future Russian expansion.

Geopolitical shifts

In addition, the US may also have its own strategic interest in favouring Romania over Turkey. On the surface it may appear that Turkey would be the most natural candidate for receiving US support as the most prominent regional power capable of challenging Russian influence. However, further strengthening of Turkey at the expense of other regional countries could lead to the creation of a geopolitical duopoly transforming the region into a quasi-Russo-Turkic condominium. This in turn could significantly reduce influence of external actors thus potentially leading to marginalization of US influence in the area.

Furthermore, Turkey, due to its military and economic strength, could be a more difficult partner for the US. It’s also well possible that Ankara would actually see increased US presence as a factor weakening its regional position and a potential constraint on pursuing own foreign policy objectives.  Bucharest, on the contrary, would not only be less willing and able to challenge US influence, but would rather see it as a factor elevating its position in the region. Thus, extending support to Romania not only creates a buffer against potential further Russian expansion but also helps to maintain a less concentrated balance of power in the region. That in turn would help Washington to maintain a more flexible and unimpeded access to the area.

The chain of events which unfolded due to the Ukrainian crisis has led to a significant change in the strategic situation in the Black Sea region. Turkey has to now face a larger and more assertive Russian presence, which will likely force it to deploy more resources to its northern flank and maintain a defensive posture in the Black Sea. While Russia, after more than 20 years, has managed to restore a significant presence in the area. It is not yet on the level achieved during the times of the Soviet Union, but is closer to its position during the 19th century.

By Mr. Adam Klus

Adam Klus is a PhD student of the Past, Space and Environment in Society Doctoral Programme at the University of Eastern Finland. His research interests include; geopolitics of Eastern Europe, country risk analysis, asymmetric threats, unconventional use of military force, and geopolitically disruptive technologies. He works as an investment professional and has several years of experience from financial companies in London and Helsinki.

Syrian missiles ‘locked-on to Turkish jets’

Syria’s missile systems ‘harassed’ Turkish fighter jets on Monday, the Turkish General Staff has announced in a statement.

The missiles deployed in Syria locked on to Turkish F-16 fighter jets as they were carrying out a routine combat air patrol along the Turkey-Syria border, according to the statement published on the General Staff’s website.

Tensions in the area have remained high since Turkish forces shot down a Syrian warplane for entering its airspace on March 23.

The two countries’ borders extend more than 800km.

WB

Turkey, Moldova to deepen military cooperation

Turkey is interested in continuing an effective partnership with Moldova in the military sector, by identifying beneficial projects to the armies of both countries. Turkish Ambassador to Moldova Mehmet Selim Kartal made a statement to this effect at a working meeting with Defence Minister Valeriu Troenco.

At the meeting, the sides discussed the importance of developing and deepening bilateral cooperation in the military field. The defence minister expressed his gratitude for opportunities provided to National Army staff to train professionally in institutions from Turkey, especially at the Partnership for Peace Training Centre (PfP TC) in Ankara.

“We appreciate the professional training of Moldovan officers and non-commissioned officers instructed at elite military schools in Turkey. After returning from studies, they bring modern standards, performance and projects directed towards the development of the defence institution”, said Minister Troenco.

For his part, Mehmet Selim Kartal also said that Moldova could count on Turkey’s friendship.

The diplomatic relations between Moldova and Turkey were established in 1993. Turkey is among the top ten most important economic partners of Moldova.

Bsanna News

Greek court rejects extradition of terror suspect

The Thessaloniki Court of Appeals on Wednesday ruled Hüseyin Fevzi Tekin who was arrested last February will not be extradited to Turkey at least until his political asylum request is concluded.

Tekin, along with Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) members İsmail Akkol, Murat Korkut and Bilgehan Karpat, was arrested in Athens. When captured, he was in possession of a passport issued in the name of Bulgarian national Petrov Petar.

Greek police found a cache of weapons and explosives in his house. The court said that Tekin will remain in detention on charges related to the possession of weapons.

In a related development, Hasan Koşar, a DHKP-C member recently arrested for his involvement in a 2011 bombing in Thessaloniki, was released on bail. Koşar and 14 others, including two other DHKP-C members, were arrested after the explosion that killed one. He was released only to be arrested again as further investigation found he was involved in the attack. The Thessaloniki court ruled for his release as he has been a resident of Greece for over 23 years and “was not expected to flee abroad.”

Last week, the Thessaloniki Court of Appeals rejected an extradition demand for Kadir Kaya, another DHKP-C member, who was jailed last year but freed. The court also decided not to extradite two other DHKP-C members who were captured in a boat carrying arms and explosives from Greece’s Chios island on July 30.

Tekin is a high-ranking official in the DHKP-C who rose to the top after the death of its leader Dursun Karataş in 2008. He was arrested after a series of bombings were carried out in Istanbul’s Fatih district in 1999. After his release on parole, he disappeared. He is accused of commanding the organization from Greece.

Greece has long been a favorite hideaway for terrorists from the DHKP-C and PKK.

Terrorists fleeing Turkey took shelter at refugee camps in Lavrion under the guise of asylum seekers, especially in the 1980s.

The DHKP-C, founded in 1978 as a Marxist-Leninist party, was designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. Under the name of Dev Sol until 1994, the organization claimed responsibility for a series of high-profile murders, including the assassination of nationalist politician Gün Sazak and former prime minister Nihat Erim in 1980. The group also killed several Turkish intelligence officials. In 1994, it was founded as the DHKP-C after Dev Sol splintered. The group’s terror activities remained relatively minor compared to the PKK, another terrorist organization targeting Turkey.

The DHKP-C attempted to stage a bloody comeback in the last two years by carrying out attacks against the police. In 2012, about ten years after its last known lethal attack in Turkey, the DHKP-C conducted a suicide bombing at a police station in Istanbul, killing a policeman.

It claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, which killed a Turkish security guard in February 2013. This was followed one month later by rocket attacks against the Ministry of Justice in Ankara and the headquarters of the ruling AK Party. In September 2013, the DHKP-C claimed responsibility for a rocket attack against the headquarters of Turkish police in the capital.

No casualties were reported in all three attacks. The DHKP-C, originally established as a left-wing movement opposed to “fascist regimes in Turkey controlled by the West” targeted U.S. interests, including U.S. military and diplomatic personnel and facilities and NATO personnel and facilities since the 1990s. During the Gulf War in 1991, the organization claimed responsibility for the killing of two U.S. soldiers in Turkey and targeted NATO and U.S. logistical facilities in various attacks.

Following those attacks, Turkey launched a massive crackdown against the group in 1992 and an unknown number of its senior leaders were killed in operations in Istanbul. The terrorist organization restricted its activities in late 1990s, although it made headlines after a series of hunger strikes by its imprisoned members in 1999 that concluded with a violent crackdown by Turkish security forces against the prisoners. The group changed its tactics in the subsequent years, using terminally ill people as suicide bombers.

Daily Sabah

Qatar buys coast guard boats from Antalya’s Ares

ares75Turkey and Qatar strengthened their relations in a recent agreement in which Qatar’s coast guard pledged to purchase 17 high-speed boats from Antalya-based Ares Shipyard Ltd.

The agreement was signed March 26th at the fourth Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference. According to the deal, Qatar will buy two 46-metre vessels, 10 33-metre vessels and five 23-metre boats.

“We can say that the contract is the biggest one for the military ships category in the region,” said Kerim Kalafatoglu, managing director of Ares Shipyard.

Ares Business Development Manager Stephen Layton told Southeast European Times (SETimes) that the deal will create a number of jobs at the company.

Ares will be adapting designs of its existing boats to meet Qatar’s specifications and plans to deliver them within 56 months, he said.

Relations between Qatar and Turkey, which have become among the most stable in the Middle East, improved even further with the latest agreement, analysts told SETimes.

“This is a very significant achievement for Turkey’s defence sector,” said Maj. Gen. Armagan Kuloglu, who is retired from the Turkish armed forces.

Kuloglu told SETimes that the agreement would not only boost bilateral relations but also would open the doors to co-operation between Turkey and other countries in the region.

“Qatar’s order could be an example for other Gulf countries to give similar orders to Turkey,” he said.

Saban Kardas, the director of Ankara-based think tank Centre for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM), said, “We have been witnessing very close co-operation of the two countries in many areas for a long time.”

Ankara and Doha have pursued similar policies regarding international matters, particularly in the conflicts in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, and they followed joint conciliation efforts for the settlement of regional disputes, he said.

During the Arab Spring the two countries shared a similar point of view and acted together, Kardas said.

In addition to their co-operation in the international arena, Qatar takes the lead among other Gulf countries in developing economic and military relations with Turkey, Kuloglu said.

“Military Electronic Industries (Aselsan) and software and systems company Informatics and System House of Turkey (Havelsan) both have been working on joint projects in military software field,” Kuloglu said.

Kardas said the agreement between Turkey and Qatar should improve military relations.

“When a country buys a military system from abroad, it is inevitable that it would take trainings and participate in joint military exercises with that country,” he said.

Improved Turkey-Qatar relations

In a statement posted to its website, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said that “significant progress has been achieved in recent years with regards to the relations between Turkey and Qatar”.

Between 2008 and 2011, high-level visits between the two countries intensified, the ministry said.

“These visits have deepened and further developed the bilateral relations,” the statement said, adding that economically, Turkey has made it a priority to attract foreign investment and capital from Qatar.

In February, Qatar Minister of Economy and Trade Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani said Qatari-Turkish ties are witnessing a major boom.

Growth in bilateral relations increased trade volume between the two countries to nearly $1 billion in 2013, he said at the conclusion of a Doha meeting of the Qatari-Turkish Committee for Economic and Technical Co-operation.

Conference specifics

The Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference drew representatives from 25 prominent Turkish firms, including Aselsan, Havelsan, Roketsan, Turkish Aerospace Industries, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey, and Middle East Technical University.

Participants exhibited a variety of military products: tracked and wheeled armoured vehicles, specialised textiles, armaments and munitions, missiles and rocketry, advanced defence electronics, and products in the aerospace technology and naval shipbuilding fields.

Al-shorfa

THK reluctantly accepts 1st A400M in Kayseri

The first of 10 Airbus Military A400M transport aircrafts that Turkey has ordered was finally delivered to the Turkish Air Forces (THK) on Wednesday following Airbus’ assurances that contract terms will be fully met regarding spare parts.

The A400M, which is the largest transport aircraft in the world, landed at a military base in the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri on Wednesday. Turkey is expected to receive another A400M this year.

Turkey has ordered at least 10 of the next-generation military transport aircraft from Airbus Military. The long-awaited tactical airlifter has seen a series of delays and budget hikes.

The first test flight of the received A400M was held at Etimesgut Air Base in Ankara and the second took place at the 12th Military Airbase Command in Kayseri province in July 2013. The A400M was designed for military use but can also serve civilian purposes.

The high-tech A400M can cover large distances in a short period of time and is highly maneuverable. Turkey has been working with France during the A400M’s production phase.

TZ

Turkey Approves Controversial Spy Agency Bill

Turkey’s parliament has approved a bill that increases the powers and immunities of the country’s spy agency. It’s the latest in a string of moves critics say is undermining democracy in the country that is a candidate to join the European Union.

The bill, approved Thursday, would give Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency the ability to launch covert operations and increased capacity to keep tabs on citizens. It would also introduce prison terms for the publication of secret documents.

The government insists the overhaul will make the agency more efficient and allow it to meet “new security and foreign policy needs.”

Opposition parties say the bill grants the agency far reaching powers and will turn Turkey into a surveillance state. It has vowed to seek its cancellation at Turkey’s highest court.

AP

Turkish, Greek jets back at “war” after 2 years

Turkish and Greek fighter jets engaged in a mid-air dogfight over the Aegean Sea twice on April 15 in a first since January 2012, Greek media has reported.

According to the reports based on Greek military sources, four F-16s belonging to the Turkish Air Force approached the Semadirek (Samothraki) Island before the first dogfight. Four Greek F-16s took off “to locate and prevent” the Turkish aircraft. Sides faced off against each other north of Samothraki, as well as southwest of Limni (Limnos) Island.

The official website of the Turkish General Staff did not list any violations or dogfights for April 15.

Greece unilaterally claims 10 nautical miles (19 km) of airspace, as opposed to the six miles of territorial waters, as Turkey and other NATO countries accept. Athens considers any unauthorized flight in the airspace from six to 10 miles in the Aegean a “violation.”

Dogfights between Turkish and Greek aircraft over the Aegean Sea had significantly decreased due to the economic crisis Athens is struggling with.

HDN

US internal politics hinder arming of key allies

A number of foreign navies are eager to acquire ex-US Navy frigates, but politics is preventing some allies, like Turkey, from receiving any more. Here, the Turkish frigate Gelibolu, ex-USS Reid, approaches Doha, Qatar, on March 24.
A number of foreign navies are eager to acquire ex-US Navy frigates, but politics is preventing some allies, like Turkey, from receiving any more. Here, the Turkish frigate Gelibolu, ex-USS Reid, approaches Doha, Qatar, on March 24.

The US Navy’s frigate force is rapidly shrinking as the 1980s-era ships are taken out of service. The Navy wants to transfer the ships to friendly nations for further service, and several nations are eager to have them.

But in recent years, congressional politics have made some of the proposed moves overly controversial, and measures to approve the transfers have run afoul of partisan politics, particularly where Turkey and Pakistan are concerned.

But on April 7, the House passed a bill approving the transfer of eight frigates — four to Taiwan, two to Thailand and two to Mexico. Two of the ships named in the bill already have left service, with the other six set to leave the US fleet in 2015.

The bill now lies with the Senate, where it might have come to a vote before the body adjourned for a two-week recess. As of April 10, however, it appeared the opportunity for quick action would pass, leaving the measure to be taken up at a later date.

The House-sponsored bill eliminated a Senate bill introduced in November that included the same ships, plus three more for Pakistan — along with a series of conditions that country has recoiled from meeting.

Forces in the Senate have balked as well at providing Pakistan with the ships, and a hold — reportedly from Sen. Rand Paul R-Ky., — has been placed on the bill.

Similar squabbles led to another frigate transfer bill dying with the previous Congress. That bill would have provided more frigates for Turkey, which already operates eight ex-US frigates.

The latest House bill avoids those questions and centers the move on Taiwan.

“The transfer to Taiwan of retired US Navy frigates is an important part of the US commitment to Taiwan’s security,” Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “The administration and Congress must continue to find ways to enhance Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities.”

The bill would only approve a ship’s transfer should the specified nation and the US reach agreement. It does not indicate such a move is a done deal.

DefenseNews