The last-month visit of the Speaker Nabih Berri to Cyprus to discuss the bilateral oil and gas issues showed how slow we are in responding to urgent national matters, how slack we are in forming our national foreign policies, and of course how careless we are in preserving and exploiting our national recourses.
Noting that Nabih Berri is not the right person for the job neither politically nor technically (unless he is negotiating his own cut), Lebanon seems to be joining the party late by falling behind its duties, and ignoring major telling signs about the stronger cooperation by the day between Cyprus and Israel.
Israel has been blostering its ties with Cyprus since 2010 when it killed nine Turks while intercepting the Turkish-run flotilla Mavi Marmara, which was carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip under Israeli siege.
Earlier this year, Israeli war minister Ehud Barak and his Cypriot counterpart Demetris Eliades signed two agreements for strengthening military cooperation between their countries. The Israeli air force had joint exercises too with the Greek air force. Moreover, Israel has already exploited Cyprus’ ‘European status’ by planing to jointly export their gas to the European Union via a pipeline to Greece.
Cyprus’ Famagusta Gazette newspaper (via Jerusalem Post) said on 7th February, and that’s three weeks before Berri’s visit, that there were ongoing discussions “at an exploratory stage” about providing a military base for the Israeli air force in Cyprus.
During his visit to cyprus, Berri hailed the Lebanese-Cypriot cooperation, and the long-standing Cypriot support to the Palestinians. He must be unaware of plans of any Israeli military base in Cyprus, whom the Turkish officials now think is a reality despite denials from both sides. It was reported that the possibility of establishing such a base in Cyprus came up early this year during signing the military Israeli-Cypriot agreements mentioned above.
Nabih Berri could have checked what Turkey has to offer too, as it seems he was ‘conned’ in Cyprus. If the reports of the Israeli military base are true, then this is surely a double blow to Turkey and Hezbollah who vowed to protect the Lebanese recourses including the disputed 850 km2 with Israel – which could prove to be costly (again). Excluding any war costs, military tensions would scare investors, but not necessarily to the extent of driving them away. But surely their premium would be higher.
This potential Israeli base aim is likely to aimed at protecting the Israeli gas and oil fields, but it shows as well how new fault lines in the region are being formed. Israel is taking on Hezbollah and…Turkey. This move reaffirms the Israeli strategy of military superiority over its neighbours, and Israel’s willingness to push its military presence outside its boundaries again – in a different and unprecedented format. This Israeli expansion with new military air bases has been reported to be reaching Azerbaijan on Iran’s borders, and in a very heavy way!
Nabih Berri only proved his ignorance when he said according to AFP: “Israel, Cyprus and Turkey are all much more advanced in drilling for oil and gas”. He should know that they are hiring companies to do the drilling as we will be, but the difference is that these countries have the political will.
I fear this precious opportunity and national treasure could be wasted by our politicians’ usual nonsense bickering and their corruption. We are still debating the format and the reporting line of oil and gas committee – which is still to be established.