Russia to Invest $500 mln in Syrian Port
Russia plans to invest $500 million in the Syrian port of Tartus and build a grain hub there to boost its presence on Middle East markets, Interfax news agency cited Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov as saying on Tuesday.Russia, the world's largest wheat exporter, has stepped up grain supplies to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in recent years since Moscow's 2015 military intervention on his behalf in Syria's civil war.Construction of the necessary infrastructure at the port…
Iran says Tanker Oil Sold at Sea, Buyer Sets Destination
Iran's envoy to London said on Wednesday the oil cargo of tanker Adrian Darya 1 was sold at sea to a private company, denying Tehran had broken assurances it had given over the vessel, but he insisted EU's Syria sanctions did not apply to Tehran."At (the) meeting with the British Foreign Secretary, it was emphasised that British authorities' action against the tanker carrying Iranian oil was in violation of international law," ambassador Hamid Baeidinejad said on Twitter after being summoned in London."EU sanctions cannot be extended to third countries.
UK Says Assurances Over Oil Tanker Breached
Britain summoned the Iranian ambassador on Tuesday to condemn what it said was a clear breach of the assurances it was given over the oil cargo of the tanker Adrian Darya 1, which had previously been detained for breaching EU sanctions."Iran has shown complete disregard for its own assurances over Adrian Darya 1," foreign minister Dominic Raab said in a statement, accusing Iran of reneging on a promise not to transfer oil from the tanker to Syria."This sale of oil to (Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's) brutal regime is part of a pattern of behaviour by the Government of Iran designed to disrupt regional security."Britain said it would raise the issue at the United Nations later this month. (Reporting by William James, editing by Elizabeth Piper)
Russia's Only Aircraft Carrier Damaged after Floating Dock Sinks
Russia's only aircraft carrier was damaged while undergoing repairs in the north of the country after the floating dock holding it sank in the early hours of Tuesday morning and a crane crashed onto its deck.The Admiral Kuznetsov has seen action in Russia's military campaign in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad with its planes carrying out air strikes against rebel forces.It was being overhauled on one of the world's biggest floating docks in the icy waters of the Kola Bay near Murmansk close to where Russia's Northern Fleet is based and was due to go back into service in 2021.Maria Kovtun, Murmansk's governor, said in a statement that a rescue operation had been launched and 71 people evacuated after the floating dock holding the ship had begun to sink.The warship had been suc
Cargo Ships De-listed After Crimea Grain Trades
At least two countries have struck cargo vessels off their registries in recent weeks after the ships were involved in transporting grains from Crimea to Syria, maritime officials told Reuters.Crimea has been under Western sanctions since it was annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014 and has been frozen out of many export markets. That leaves Syria, which has also been targeted by sanctions, as an ideal trading partner for Crimea, given that the latter is open to receiving goods…
Russian Tankers Smuggle Jet Fuel to Syria
Russian tankers have smuggled jet fuel to Syria through EU waters, bolstering military supplies to a war-torn country where Moscow is carrying out air strikes in support of the government, according to sources with knowledge of the matter. At least two Russian-flagged ships made deliveries - which contravene EU sanctions - via Cyprus, an intelligence source with a European Union government told Reuters. There was a sharp increase in shipments in October, said the source who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. A separate shipping source familiar with the movements of the Russian-flagged vessels said the ships visited Cypriot and Greek ports before delivering fuel to Syria.
Syria Wants to Increase Trade with Russia
Syria needs wheat and fuel to alleviate shortages and suffering caused by its civil war and wants to expand trade ties with Russia, the Syrian government told a high-level Russian delegation on Tuesday. An ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russia launched air strikes to support his forces against anti-government rebels last September. The conflict, which is in its sixth year, has cost hundreds of thousands of lives and caused food and fuel shortages in many areas. Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem told the economic and defence delegation to Damascus that Syria needed economic support in the form of wheat and fuel to ease shortages caused by the conflict and to "alleviate Syrians' suffering", state news agency SANA reported.
Britain Says Will 'Man-mark' Passing Russian Warships
Britain said on Thursday it would keep a close eye on a fleet of Russian warships approaching British waters on their way to the eastern Mediterranean. The Norwegian military on Wednesday released pictures taken by surveillance aircraft of the fleet, which includes the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and the Pyotr Velikiy battle cruiser, sailing in international waters. British defence minister Michael Fallon said the Royal Navy would be watching closely. "When these ships near our waters we will man-mark them every step of the way," Fallon said. Russia's TASS state news agency said in July that the Admiral Kuznetsov would take part in a Russian operation in Syria from October to January.
Russian Warships Said to be Bound for Syria
The Norwegian military has released pictures taken by surveillance aircraft of a fleet of Russian warships sailing in international waters off the coast of Norway and reported to be heading to Syria. Photos of the vessels, which include the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and the Pyotr Velikiy battle cruiser, were taken near Andoya island, in northern Norway on Monday. A spokesman for the Norwegian military intelligence service said the country's armed forces frequently releases such footage, while newspaper VG quoted General Morten Haga Lunde, head of the service, as saying the eight ships involved "will probably play a role in the deciding battle for Aleppo".
Syria Makes Major Wheat Deal with Russia
Syria's state grain buying agency Hoboob struck a deal to purchase one million tonnes of Russian wheat from political ally Russia, covering the needs of government-controlled areas for a year. The Damascus government subsidises bread for the areas it controls ensuring the supply of flat loaves that are a staple for Syrian people. Syria often buys wheat from Russia but this was an unusually large amount for a cheap price. The source said it should cover the government's needs for this year until the next local wheat buying season in 2017. A Syrian government source close to the matter told Reuters Hoboob purchased the wheat at 150 euros ($168) a tonne, on a cost and freight basis, and shipment would be for a year after opening up the letter of credit.
Russia to Build Permanent Syrian Naval Base, Eyes Other Outposts
Russia will create a permanent naval base in Syria to expand its military footprint in its closest Middle East ally, a government official said on Monday, a week after Moscow said it was considering reopening Soviet-era bases in Vietnam and Cuba. The move, announced by Russian Deputy Defence Minister Nikolai Pankov, is further evidence Russia is building up its capabilities in Syria despite a partial drawdown in March and another sign it is digging in for the long haul to help prop up President Bashar al-Assad.
Iran Vessels Make 'High Speed Intercept' of US Ship
Four of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) vessels "harassed" a U.S. warship on Tuesday near the Strait of Hormuz, a U.S. defense official said, amid Washington's concerns about Iran's posture in the Gulf and in the Syrian civil war. The vessels harassed the destroyer by "conducting a high speed intercept and closing within a short distance of Nitze, despite repeated warnings," the official said. IRGC, the Islamic Republic's praetorian guard, is suspicious of U.S.
Iran Defends Encounter with US Warship
Iran's defence minister said on Thursday four of his country's vessels accused of harassing a U.S. warship were only doing their job, and Tehran would contront any American ship that entered its waters. The vessels from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) conducted what a U.S. defence official described as a "high speed intercept" of the warhip on Tuesday in the Strait of Hormuz. The official said two of the Iranian vessels came within 300 yards of the USS Nitze in an incident that was "unsafe and unprofessional…
Russia Supplies Syria Mission with Turkey's Old Cargo Ships
Earlier this year, an old refrigerator ship called the Georgiy Agafonov, built to transport fruit and vegetables for the Soviet Union, was quietly gathering rust in the Ukrainian port of Izmail where the Danube flows into the Black Sea. Its owners, a Ukrainian state company, assumed it would never sail again. When a Turkish company offered to buy it for $300,000, they watched as the hulk was towed away, presumably for scrap. Nine months later the ship is back at sea, renamed Kazan-60, reflagged as part of Russia's naval auxiliary fleet, and repurposed as an unlikely part of Moscow's biggest military operation outside the old Soviet boundaries since the Cold War.
French Naval Group to Battle Islamic State
France to deploy aircraft carrier to help operations against Islamic State. France's Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier will be deployed to support operations against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, France's presidency said in a statement on Thursday. "The deployment of the battle group alongside the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier has been decided to participate in operations against Daesch and its affiliate groups," the statement said after a defence cabinet meeting, referring to the Arabic acronym for Islamic State. The statement added that Paris supported efforts to reach a political transition in Syria, but that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in no way could be part of the country's future.
Refugees Give Greek Tour Operators an Extended Season
Placards in hand, travel agent Iakovos Bouchoris and his team scout for customers at Greece's busy Piraeus port, near Athens, where some 5,000 people arrived on Tuesday in a single day on ships from outlying islands close to Turkey. Instead of the usual groups of German, Italian and Korean tourists, the tour operators were waiting for Syrian refugees; and rather than touring the ancient ruins of the Greek capital, they were heading north to the Greek-Macedonian border. Greece's peak holiday season may have ended in August, but for many travel agents, business is booming in October. "We've been filling 20 to 25 buses a day, about 1,250 people a day," Bouchoris said, recalling a peak in early September.
Russia Sends Ships, Aircraft and Forces to Syria
Russia has sent two tank landing ships and additional aircraft to Syria in the past day or so and has deployed a small number of forces there, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, in the latest signs of a military buildup that has put Washington on edge. The two U.S. officials, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the intent of Russia's military moves in Syria remained unclear. U.S. officials have not ruled out the possibility that Moscow may be laying the groundwork for an air combat role in Syria's conflict to bolster Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Assad, a longtime Russian ally, has seen the area he controls whittled down to a fifth or less of Syria's territory after more than four years of grinding civil war.
Russia Plans Fuel Shipments to Syria from Crimea
Russia plans to supply Syria with 200,000 tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) per year via the Crimean port of Kerch, two trading sources told Reuters. The plans are a further sign of cooperation between the two countries despite hopes in the West that Russia might stop shielding President Bashar al-Assad from pressure to step aside. Moscow had been shipping significantly lower volumes of LPG to Syria via Kerch before Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014. The United States and the European Union, which say the seizure of Crimea violates international law, have imposed sanctions on individuals and business in Crimea, which include restrictions on use of the Kerch port. Russia is a staunch ally of Syria and an exporter of arms to Damascus.
Syria Taps World Wheat Market as Stocks Run Down
Weeks after Syria said it had no need for wheat imports, the government plans to import 150,000 tonnes and has introduced ways to conserve grain stocks in signs of the growing strain on food supplies from conflict in the country. Despite millions of Syrians fleeing the fighting to neighbouring countries with 220,000 people estimated to have been killed, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government is grappling with ensuring there is enough grain for all. Trade sources say Damascus faced challenges importing sufficient stocks as payment problems and fighting have deterred many international firms from trading. Before the war, Syria kept annual strategic stocks of around 3 million tonnes of wheat.
Hagel Resigns as Defense Secretary
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel resigned on Monday, the first major change to President Barack Obama's Cabinet since his Democrats were routed in midterm elections three weeks ago. Obama announced the resignation at a White House event with Hagel at his side. Hagel will remain in the job until a successor is in place. Hagel was appointed less than two years ago as Obama pushed his signature program of winding up wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a process that is being upended this year with U.S. re-engagement in Iraq and greater military cooperation with Kabul.
Ship Ready to Destroy Syria's Chemical Arms at Sea
Experts on board a cargo ship transformed into a multimillion dollar chemical weapons destroyer said on Thursday they were ready to start working on Syria's stock of toxic arms in the middle of the Mediterranean as early as May. Now they just have to hope the weather holds and Damascus delivers on time. Former container vessel Cape Ray, docked in southern Spain, has been fitted out with at least $10 million of gear to let it take on about 560 metric tonnes of Syria's most dangerous chemical agents and sail them out to sea, said officials.
Russian fleet at heart of Ukraine crisis
Many of fleet's ships are old, destined for scrap; Fleet is due to get new submarines, ships, aircraft. Ships used in Ukraine crisis, against Georgia, off Syria. Gently bobbing up and down in the sheltered waters of the Bay of Sevastopol in Crimea, Russia's storied Black Sea Fleet has an air of decay about it. Paint peels from low-slung dockside buildings, a solitary submarine sits dolefully alongside a pontoon, and the fleet's boxy grey ships date back to the Soviet-era with many soon destined for the scrap heap. But appearances can be deceptive. The fleet, its base, and the sprawling military infrastructure that go with it, are vital to Russian President Vladimir Putin's military and geopolitical ambitions and one of the main reasons the Kremlin is now eyeing complete control of Crimea.
Russian Fleet at Heart of Ukraine Crisis is Central to Putin
Gently bobbing up and down in the sheltered waters of the Bay of Sevastopol in Crimea, Russia's storied Black Sea Fleet has an air of decay about it. Paint peels from low-slung dockside buildings, a solitary submarine sits dolefully alongside a pontoon, and the fleet's boxy grey ships date back to the Soviet-era with many soon destined for the scrap heap. But appearances can be deceptive. The fleet, its base, and the sprawling military infrastructure that go with it, are vital…