Tension building in eastern Mediterranean
It is an unfortunate reality that the waters of the eastern Mediterranean are heating up is indeed approaching fast to a boiling point. Tensions are increasing. All hopes for a resolution of the standoff between Turkey and Greece (as well as Greek Cypriots, France, Egypt and…) are almost exhausted. No one maintains the optimism of early August that there might be a resolution through dialogue.
I must stress that in full contrast to the skeptics of the German mediation effort, which was indeed an effort supported by the entire European Union, was an honest but deficient move and might have helped to diffuse tension and concentrate on a compromise solution through dialogue. On both sides, there are maximalist people shunning prospects of a compromise solution, but indeed that’s what diplomacy is all about.
Turkey, despite harsh criticisms by opponents and those who believe Greece had no right in the eastern Mediterranean, at the request of German Chancellor Angela Merkel took a major step back to give a chance to diplomacy and halted its hydrocarbon activities in the region. Did Greece reciprocate? On the contrary, Greece used the Turkish backstep as a bonus at hand and engaged in an exercise with Egypt’s putschist General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to sign an agreement designating an exclusive economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean between the two countries and totally ignoring Turkey’s inalienable rights. After the Turkey-Libya maritime agreement, however, Greece no longer had a mutual sea border with Egypt and could not have legally signed such an agreement, which is in full violation of international law.
Obviously, trying to make Turkey an almost landlocked country cannot be a policy conducive to goodwill, dialogue and peaceful resolution. The development torpedoed the prospects of dialogue as it showed Greece was after fait accompli rather than a compromise deal through dialogue.
The resumption of the activities of the Oruç Reis research vessel of Turkey and probably drilling activities by its own capacity, as it did in the Black Sea and has been doing in the Mediterranean, would underline the commitment not to budge from the inalienable rights and interests even under the solidarity clause of the EU club and if entire Europe gathers behind Greece.
Unfortunately, the current Turkey-Greece problems are not isolated cases but part and parcel of a far bigger package that includes from Cyprus to Turkish community problems in Western Thrace to the Aegean issues. These issues, of course, must be resolved through a spirit of good neighborliness in conformity with international agreements (including the transfer of the Dodecanese islands by Italy to Greece and the Lausanne and bilateral accords between Athens and Ankara) and of course, taking into consideration the geographical realities for continental rights.
Buying and deploying fighter jets on Cyprus, engaging in ambitious defense procurement programs with France, and the far worse deploying of troops, building military installations on islands at arm’s length from Turkish territory and that too under bilateral and multilateral agreements ought to be demilitarized, are not the wisest steps that can be taken. Turkey is not going to turn its other cheek to blatant provocative actions that aim at locking it into Anatolia.
The wisest way out is obviously sitting around a table with the intention and political will for a compromise resolution and sharing the wealth of the eastern Mediterranean on the basis of fairness as well as international law.