Turkey forces Greece, G Cyprus over deal in east Mediterranean

Turkey forces Greece, G Cyprus over deal in east Mediterranean

The signing of a memorandum of understanding between Turkey and Libya on the demarcation of maritime jurisdiction zones in eastern Mediterranean was a game-changer of the long-standing standoff between Turkey and other littoral countries, particularly Greece and Greek Cyprus.

Apart from condemning the Turkish-Libyan move, they argued the deal was illegal according to international law. The Greek and Greek Cypriots governments have launched a diplomatic campaign and sought to find support in their efforts to discredit the Turkish-Libyan move.

Greece was hoping to sign a deal with Egypt for the delimitation of the maritime jurisdiction zones in eastern Mediterranean in a bid to respond to the Turkish move, but it won’t be that easy.

Reports are suggesting that it will be to Egypt’s advantage to sign a deal with Turkey instead of Greece because a larger area will be granted to the use of Egypt should it choose to cooperate with the former. It seems a deal between Greece and Egypt is unlikely because of the Turkish-Libyan move.

Greece has also knocked on the doors of the EU and threatened to veto any peace agreement in Libya unless the Tripoli-based Government National Accord (GNA) deal with Turkey on the Mediterranean would be canceled. The Greek government did not hesitate to stand with General Khalifa Haftar and encourage him to continue fighting until the U.N.-recognized government in Tripoli is collapsed. In a full maximalist approach, the Greek government seems to have lost its balance and commonsense.

Turkey took a new step around 10 days ago by dispatching the Yavuz drillship to the south of Cyprus. Yavuz will explore oil and natural gas in the license area “G” to conduct its third drilling operation in line with the licenses granted to Turkish Petroleum by the Turkish Cypriot government in 2011.

This move should be interpreted in line with Turkey’s attempt to explore hydrocarbon reserves in the said area so that it could introduce a new game-changer to the eastern Mediterranean conflict. The said area is overlapping with the Greek Cypriots license area where the Italian ENI company has been exploring reserves. Any discovery by Turkey will sure change the equation in the region and will force Greek Cyprus to negotiate with the Turkish Cypriots.

In this context, Turkey reiterates a proposal brought to the table by the Turkish Cypriot government on July 13, 2019 to the Greek Cyprus for an equitable share of the hydrocarbon revenues. It should be noted that there was no single concrete reply to the Turkish Cypriot proposal by the Greek Cyprus government although the former was ready for a formula which would not necessarily lead to its recognition.

The Greek government has made clear once again they are not in favor of a political agreement to end the division of the island and to share the revenues.
At this point, the EU should adopt a wiser stance to deal with the problem. It should not take steps that would further deepen the crisis in the region and turn it into an Ankara-Brussels conflict. The EU will lose all its leverage on this issue if it continues to act as an international court.

Instead, it should run after practical solutions to ease the conflict. It should press on the Greek and Greek Cypriot governments to cooperate with the Turkish Cypriots to make sure that the richness of the island belongs to the two sides and will be shared accordingly. It will be a pity for the EU if it continues to ignore the existence and rights of the Turkish Cypriots.