Neither Greece nor Turkey will be able to compromise on Mediterranean issue - Azerbaijani expert | Eurasia Diary -

23 October, Friday

Neither Greece nor Turkey will be able to compromise on Mediterranean issue - Azerbaijani expert

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Greco-Turkish disputes over the exploration rights in the Eastern Mediterranean has intensified the tension between two regional states. While Turkish drill and seismic research ships are involved in the exploration activity in its continental shelf, Greek and Greek Cypriot warships, including French hold military activities in the same region. It seems obvious that both countries play war-games in the region. Despite the statements from the international community, neither Turkey nor Greece have been able to engage in the dialogue to find diplomatic resolution to the dispute. 

Eurasia Diary conducted an interview with Javidan Ahmedkhanli, an expert on Turkey's domestic and foreign policy at Topchubashov center regarding the current tension between Greece and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean. 

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- Do you think that the intensification of the tension between Greece and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean would cause the military confrontation in the region?

- Unfortunately, this possibility is not excluded. In fact, I would say it is much higher than other possibilities. I will try to explain it on two bases. Firstly, both Turkey and Greece consider their versions to be in line with international law and both governments have heavily propagated own versions to domestic public since the beginning of crisis. The Greek government argues that their rights are fully in accordance with UNCLOS III. The Turkish government, on the other hand, claims that the Greek arguments are against the principles of justice and defends the own "Blue Homeland" version. For this reason, neither side has a chance to step back on this issue. Because such a step could make them lose their credibility in domestic public. For this reason, I am doubtful that the parties will be able to compromise on this issue. Secondly, the possible discovery of enormous energy resources in the disputed area can drag the parties into military conflict. As we know, energy wars are reality of the new millennium. So, in this scenario military confrontation is no exception.

- Turkey has only ally in the Eastern Mediterranean is Libya’s internationally recognized government of Tripoli. However, other littoral states of the Mediterranean Sea – Greece, Egypt, Greek Cyprus, Israel and France, are involved in the hostilities with Turkey. All of them have come together under the one umbrella against Turkey. From your opinion, what will Ankara have to do in order to achieve gains in row with its rivals?

- Yes, all countries you mentioned in the question are against Turkey and most of them are founding members of the EastMed Gas Forum, which is nicknamed as "the OPEC of Mediterranean gas". However, none of these countries is a game-changer power. I think the US stance to the situation is very important and it will directly affect the outcome of the Eastern Mediterranean issue. So, in my own opinion the US is the key actor. But, it seems very difficult for Turkey to convince the USA in the near future. There are serious disagreements between the two countries. In addition, the US intends to keep allies together rather than  choose any side. According to the recent report, the US administration wants Turkey to join to "the OPEC of Mediterranean gas. "The US government is aware of the Russian presence in the region and does not want to push any of its allies, especially Turkey to approach to the Moscow. The same mistake has occurred in Syria and we all know the consequences. Therefore, I think Ankara could use the "Russia card" to persuade the USA. This is the most effective choice for Turkey to achieve the goals in the Eastern Mediterranean issue.

- France supports Greece and South Cyprus in the tension with Turkey. Paris condemns Ankara for the violating the sovereign territory of Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean. French warships have been holding military exercises with Greece and Greek Cyprus near the territorial waters of Turkey.  Do you think that France is trying to deteriorate the situation in the region? Also please tell us, what are the main interests of the Macron government in the Eastern Mediterranean?

- From Macron perspective, French president has intended to play more active role in global and regional issues for a long time. France is powerful country and has a great military potential. So, Macron is targeting to achieve something special with this potential prior to 2022 presidential election. According to recent opinion polls, Macron approval rating among French public is very low. For this reason, Macron needs a successful foreign policy campaign to use in election marathon and the Eastern Mediterranean issue is suitable for this. On the other hand, French energy corporations, especially TOTAL SA, which has great influence on the French foreign policy could get sizeable share of the energy resources in Eastern Mediterranean. From this point of view, French supports to Greece and South Cyprus against to Turkey is more understandable. France needs the weaker side in order to make it accept French Energy Corporation’s dominance in gas fields.

- Do you think that the United Nations and the European Union could mediate in the negotiations over the promotion of conflict resolution between Greece and Turkey?

- I am a bit skeptical about it. Firstly, Greece-Turkey disputes have long history. Over 50 years both sides have failed to find common permanent settlements. Aegean dispute, Cyprus conflict and now Eastern Mediterranean issue. The UN and the EU mediated these disputes many times, unfortunately each failed. Especially, the Cyprus disputes, which ended with military clashes could be an example for which direction the Greece-Turkey disputes generally evolve to. Secondly, looking at recent history, it is hard to believe the validity of the results of the UN and EU mediations. Just look at to Libya. Formally every country praised UN-brokered dialogue in 2015. But, just after UN-recognized GNA formed, some countries have begun to support LNA, which is trying to overthrow UN-recognized GNA. Also, there are serious doubts about the effectiveness of EU`s Operation IRINI, which was launched on March 31, 2020, with the aim to enforce the United Nations arms embargo to Libya. So, in my opinion, neither the UN nor the EU could mediate for durable peace between Greece and Turkey. Perhaps NATO or the UK would be a better option as a mediator on this issue.

- If Turkey and Greece engage in the military confrontation, how will it affect the energy routes passing through the region, especially the Southern Gas Corridor?

- I don't think it will have any effect. Because the military confrontation could only take place in very limited space and time. In particular, the Greek islands close to Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean are hot spots. Neither country claims anything more other than the status of these islands. So, it is hard to expect a large-scale war. Even in the worst-case scenario, I do not predict that the parties will intentionally target important international pipelines.

Interviewed by Yunis Abdullayev

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