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Russia Revives Turkish-Israeli Strategic Partnership 29 mai 2006

Posted by Acturca in Caucasus / Caucase, Energy / Energie, Russia / Russie, Turkey / Turquie.
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Axis News, 28.05.2006

by Simon Araloff, Sami Rozen

Quite probably, this week Moscow will achieve a large geopolitical success in the Middle East. This will happen if Tel Aviv would manage to reach an agreement with Ankara on the deliveries of Russian oil to Israel by the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline…

On the background of active discussion by the Russian and Israeli press of the possible transaction of the natural gas sale by Russia to Israel, intensive contacts of the both sides in the other power sphere – oil supply — have remained absolutely unnoticed. Meanwhile, Turkish diplomatic sources in Berlin and Brussels, whose competence does not cause any doubts, have informed the AIA the previous day, that in the nearest future the Russian-Israeli oil project may become a reality. According to the same sources, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel Tsipi Livni will pay an official visit to Turkey on May 28-29, and one of the main issues of it is to become the potentiality of the Russian oil deliveries to Israeli market by the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline. The welcome of the Israeli guest will be arranged on the highest level – Tsipi Livni will be met not only by her Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul, but also by the head of the Turkish government Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkish diplomats have been noting that such a level of welcome testifies the seriousness of intentions of the Turkish side. They have also paid their attention to that circumstance that the next day after the visit of the Israeli Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, will arrive on a two-day visit to Ankara. The Russian visitor will be informed on the details of the Turkish-Israeli negotiations on the oil issue.
According to the Turkish sources, the last two years have been difficult for the Turkish-Israeli relations . The crisis situation arisen between the two countries after the Party of Justice and Development came to power in Turkey (November 2002), and became really explosive in March, 2004, after liquidation by Israelis of sheikh Ahmed Yasin, the spiritual leader of the Palestinian organization HAMAS. The present Turkish leadership, uttering the positions of the orthodox Islam, reacted on the event rather negatively.

In May, 2004 the same Abdulla Gul has even declared a possibility of recalling of the Turkish ambassador from Tel Aviv – « for consultations ». Then the participation of Israeli companies in two tenders for manufacture of military equipment for the Turkish army has been cancelled. A month later Erdogan refused to meet with Ehud Olmert – then still the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Trade of Israel – on a visit to Ankara. Subsequently, however, Ankara did temper justice with mercy, after Israel declared its readiness to unilaterally leave from the sector of Gaza. However, then the Israel’s turn has already come to take offence at the Turkish leaders for their contacts with the management of the Palestinian organization HAMAS.

At the same time, gradual warming of the Turkish-Israeli relations was outlined in December 2005 – January 2006 when following the visit to Ankara by the chief of the Israeli General Staff Dan Halutz, Abdullah Gul visited Tel Aviv. Then the both sides have signed the joint declaration on renewal of work of the Israeli industrial zone « Erez », located on the border of the sector of Gaza, where hundreds of Palestinian workers are employed. The Turkish government has expressed its willingness to finance this project. And here now, on the background of the Russian-Israeli contacts in the power area, it is most likely that the relations between Tel Aviv and Ankara have a chance to keep to a qualitatively new level.

However, according to the Turkish sources of the AIA, the future transaction – if it will be really concluded – has no lesser value for the relations between Ankara and Moscow. Even before the end of construction of the oil pipeline that has connected the Azerbaijan capital Baku and the Turkish Mediterranean port Ceyhan in May, 2005, experts predicted that it would not be able to work at full blast due to inability of the parties participating in the project to provide its loading by oil in the necessary amount. For this reason, at the end of 2004 the western participants of the project have started talking about an opportunity to correct the situation by the means of the Russian oil. Numerous contacts with the Russian side represented by the Russian company TNK-BP had taken place. It was considered that besides the TNK-BP other Russian companies transporting oil through Astrakhan to the Iranian port of Neka could also join the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. As far Israel is concerned, since the very beginning it has supported the Baku-Ceyhan project, counting to get an access to the energy carriers of the Central-Asian region with its help, and also to earn on the transit to the Far East and South Asia through the Red Sea. This was openly declared by the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel Sylvan Shalom in October, 2003, upon the end of negotiations with his Georgian counterpart Irakly Menegarishvili. In parallel, Tel Aviv probed an opportunity of connection to the project in Baku, too. The Azerbaijan political establishment has concerned to the prospect of joining the constructing pipeline by Israel more than positively. In particular, it was repeatedly declared by Vafa Guluzade, the former foreign policy adviser to the President of Azerbaijan Gejdar Aliev, and the member of the parliament of Azerbaijan, President of the « Constitution Foundation » Alimamed Nuriev. Thus, after the beginning of negotiations with Russia on the loading of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, involving of Israel in it was only a matter of time. It is worth to note in this connection that already today more than 80 % of the oil consumed by Israel, is of the Russian origin. Still in 2001-2003 representatives of the leadership at participation of business circles of the two countries joined a dialogue on the eventual use of the old Israeli oil pipeline Ashkelon-Eylat for the Russian oil transit of at the Red Sea coast and there from – to the Far East. So the current contacts about the purchase of the Russian oil by Israel within the frame of the Baku-Ceyhan project are possible to be considered as a logic continuation of the old dialogue.

Meanwhile, Washington is watching with alarm the formation of the new Moscow-Ankara-Tel-Aviv energy triangle. Here one may realize more clearly that the the Baku-Ceyhan project undertaken by the American initiative is becoming the lever of influence of Moscow in the region.

Active contacts of the Israeli side with the Russian gas company « Gazprom” do not add optimism to the Americans. It is supposed that the Russian gas would flow to Israel by the underwater « Blue Stream » pipeline that will be prolonged from the Turkish Black Sea port Samsun up to the Mediterranean terminal Ceyhan and therefrom – to Lebanon and to Israel – by the Turkish state gas company Botas and « Gazprom ». According to the American source in Bruxelles, the US Department of State has already informed the Israeli diplomats of their concern regarding the development of a situation, undesirable from its point of view.

Oil Profile of the Jewish State

Israel consumes almost 300,000 barrels of oil daily.
Up to the middle of the 1990’s Egypt was its main supplier of oil. By the end of the last decade Russia took Egypt’s place. Today the Russian import covers more than 80 % of oil consumed by Israel. The share of the Egyptian « black gold » in the Israeli market of energy resources has decreased up to a few per cent. Other exporters is Mexico and the African countries, in particular Angola. Annually Israel spends more than 2 billion dollars for the import of oil.

Almost 40,000 barrels of oil are produced by Israel itself yearly. The first searches of the « black gold » in the territory of the modern Israel begun by the German geologists right in the beginning of the XX century. In 1933 the Brits have discovered a deposit of oil in the vicinities of the modern city of Ashdod. Consequently it has received the name of Helec. Oil extracting here has begun in 1955, and since then it never stopped. In total the deposit has made a profit in an amount of more than 500 million dollars. In the period between the Six-day war (1967) and signing of the Camp David peace agreements (1978) Israel extracted oil on the Synai peninsula. In parallel, the search for the « black gold » within the limits of the « green line » continued. Between the 1950’s and 1980’s more than 600 million dollars were spent for this aim. By the beginning of the 1990’s the state has stopped the work on search for oil, and the private companies have borrowed in it. In 1998 there an oil deposit was discovered in the area between the city of Kfar-Saba and Rosh Ha-Ayn settlement. In May, 2004 official data was publicised, showing that the stocks of oil reach 980 million barrels. Israel has been always considered as a potentially favorable transit point for the transportation of oil from the Middle East to Europe and to the Far East. There are two pipelines, one in functional and one in the frozen condition in Israel.

The Ashkelon-Ejlat pipeline connects the terminals on the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. It was built at the end of the 1960’s for the export of the Iranian oil to Europe. In 2003 it became known of the plans of the Russian companies to begin its operation to deliver oil through the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean to the Southern and Southeast Asia. It was Ehud Olmert, then the Minister of Trade, who was considered as the main lobbyist of the project.

The Kirkuk-Haifa pipeline connects the oil fields in the north of Iraq with the pseaport of Haifa on the Mediterranean Sea. It was built by the British in the beginning of the 1930’s and has stopped the work in 1948. By present the pipeline was kept only partially. To today’s measures even in a functional condition it would differ by its low throughput. In the autumn of 2003 the Israeli-American consultations for restoration of this oil pipeline took place.

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