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What is behind the energy deal between Russia and Syria?
Material posted: Publication date: 16-01-2014

While the US and Western Europe are trying to find a way dignified exit from the Syrian opposition, Russia made another geostrategic maneuver in the Eastern Mediterranean, boldly pretending to a share of the huge oil and gas deposits off the coast of Syria. In late December, the Russian state company Soyuzneftegaz signed with the Syrian regime deal, having the right to the development and extraction of oil and gas off the coast of Syria.

On the terms of this agreement, Soyuzneftegaz will be allowed to coastal drilling, development and production in Syrian territorial waters. The agreement applies to 2190 square kilometers in the waters of the Mediterranean sea with an initial cost of ninety million dollars, the promise to pay made by Soyuzneftegaz.

The contract will be valid for 25 years.

For decades the USSR (and now Russia) tried to strengthen its sphere of influence in the Eastern Mediterranean, since it is the only body of water with warm water, to which the fleet has access from the Black sea. The strategic importance of the Eastern Mediterranean also is that the territory is considered as a precious guard, preventing NATO invasion from the West.

The cold war is long over, however, the ambitious Russia can not miss the opportunity to secure its position in the region. Given the fact that the U.S. withdraw from Afghanistan and restore its military attention to Asia (in tandem with Washington's inability to implement its aggressive rhetoric against the Syrian Assad after almost three years of bloodshed), Russia wants to take advantage of what it believes is weakening the U.S. position in the region.

As Washington focused on the Asia-Pacific region, among members of the European Union there is considerable concern and uncertainty.

According to former assistant Secretary of state for political Affairs and former Ambassador from the U.S. to NATO nick burns, "we are pivoting to Asia, but it means that we turn away from something else. And when dealing with Europeans, I have the impression that their it's very frustrating".

Europe can and upset, but about Russia, it will not tell you; for her it was the right time to leave its imprint on the middle East. Moreover, when the Syrian civil war erupted, Russia has used the conflict to prove their strength and importance in the region.

Supporting Assad Russia continues (along with China) to interfere with the decision of the EU against the regime of Damascus, which, according to many, used chemical weapons against its own people.

As said in an interview with Nick burns, now teaches diplomacy and international politics at the Institute. John F. Kennedy, Harvard University: "the Russian position on Syria is without a doubt extremely useless and cynical. They closed their eyes, indulged, and helped Assad, did not want to admit the use of chemical weapons, so this is a real problem and this situation demonstrates the limitations of our abilities to work with the Russians".

Indeed, Russia has now become part of the problem the end of the three-year civil war in Syria, especially as it continues to supply weapons brutal Assad regime.

Syria is one of the last Arab countries under the patronage of Russia, and President Vladimir Putin will do everything possible to maintain the influence of their country in the region. Therefore, Russia considers energy resources of the Eastern Mediterranean as the key to restoring relevance – and therefore influence – in the region.

In 2010, the Houston energy company Noble Energy found huge gas field off the coast of Israel is the largest gas field in the last 10 years. Gazprom and other state companies of Russia hoped to gain the right to development finds. However, until now the right to explore the area known as the Levant basin, received only Noble Energy, Italy's ENI, France's Total and even the South Korean company Kogas.


In the basin of the Levant are untapped natural gas reserves of 122 trillion cubic feet.

Pool stretching from the shores of Israel, Lebanon and Syria in the East to Cyprus in the West, has an average projected reserves of oil at 1.7 billion barrels, and projected gas reserve of 122 trillion cubic feet. Using the export of oil and gas, Israel and Cyprus are hoping to become regional centers of influence.

Today, Russia's contract with Syria is more than just a potentially profitable investment; it is a political maneuver that will have on the region's far-reaching implications.

However, another growing state in the region, Turkey, also wants to connect to what is happening. Despite her complicated relations with Israel, Turkey also does not recognize the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus (where the exploration of oil and gas) and threatens the island's population and Israel's use of force. (Turkey is the only country on Earth that recognizes the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and rejected under Greek-Cypriot control of the Republic of Cyprus in the southern part of the island).

According to the Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, "Israel cannot do whatever it wants in the Eastern Mediterranean. They will see our resolve on this issue. Shock ships of our fleet can be there at any moment".

As reported in an interview with us civil servant, currently the U.S. State Department is working on a diplomatic solution to the conflict between the stakeholders of Cyprus, Turkey and Israel, hoping to solve the problem with agreement on division of oil and gas in the Levant. The state Department is considering deposits of hydrocarbons as an opportunity through which neighbors in the middle East able to communicate in their complicated relationship through joint profit to income energy.

Now, when this East Mediterranean drama entered Russia, attempts by the U.S. State Department to establish peace in the region in the future can be much more complex.

In addition to geopolitical considerations Russia may have had another motive for participation in the Eastern Mediterranean gas game – maybe the deal underscores the concern of Russia the decline of its exports of natural gas to Europe. In 2006 one fell swoop Russia stopped supplying natural gas to Ukraine, because Kiev didn't want to pay the increased price, thus leaving Europe to freeze.

In response to open Russia's use of the goods as a political tool, the United States began to develop the strategy of the southern corridor, a transit route for gas supplies from the Caspian sea to Europe to diversify energy supplies to Europe (thereby significantly displacing Moscow). This demonstrates a key policy for ensuring U.S. national security, which is designed to reduce Russia's influence in this territory.

However, even with new pipelines of the Southern corridor, most of the energy in Europe comes from Russian gas companies. But making moves in the Eastern Mediterranean, Russia is still not able to"reverse the story for the last 23 years, since the collapse of communism in [Eastern and Central] Europe," says burns. "Russia is not as strong a player, what was once the Soviet Union."

However, it is highly likely that Russia will play a significant role in middle East politics (through its proxies in Syria) for at least the next quarter century – or as long as long as Assad will remain in power.

Source translation for MixedNews -



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