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Western states, principally the Unites States and the EU, are concerned about the escalation
of dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean.The persistent and uncompromising attitude of Turkey has been challenging Greece and the EU in political terms.In 2020, Eastern Mediterranean is like a bomb ready to explode due to the competition of possession of the offshore energy resources and transportation routes.The European Union has been seeking diplomatic solutions to resolve the maritime jurisdiction dispute in order to alleviate the tension by the arbitration of Germany and Josep Borrell the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.NATO, on the other hand, has been following the process passively.Uncompromising actions of Turkey and Greece complicate the prevention of a possible future conflict and the resolution of the issues through dialogue and negotiations.
In the recent years, domestic and cross-border operations carried out against PKK terrorist organization, military achievements in Syria and Libya have increased the self-confidence of Turkey.In the context of the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey conducts its foreign policy with ”Mavi Vatan” doctrine (the doctrine specifies the national borders in the seas and national rights and stakes inside that borders).Self-sufficiency on energy by utilization of the resources in the East Med is one of the major objectives of Turkey.It is a fact that significant percentage of Turkey’s imports is on energy.As Turkey awares of this fact, Ankara states that the government will go to any extreme to take this burden off from the country’s shoulders.In the last five years, Turkey has established close relations with Iran and Russia due to the civil war in Syria and made S-400 deal with Russia.In addition, it used the refugees as a trump card against the European Union.Those actions were not supported neither by NATO nor the EU and have changed the perspective of the Western alliance negatively on Turkey.
Greece, exclusively in the recent years, has been following harmonious politics with the EU and taking more active role in alliances.Besides NATO and the EU, Greece has significantly promoted its relations with the countries in the region such as Egypt, Israel and the UAE.Moreover, Greek army conducted joint military exercises with the USA, the UAE, France and Italy.This rich and enviable support that Greece has on this level since the First World War has strengthened the state’s military and political reputation both in the region and international scene.
Nowadays, instead of peaceful talks, Turkey and Greece increased their military exercises and naval capacities in areas where they have declared as their own Exclusive Economic Zone.The problematical events such as the ongoing seismic explorations of Turkey, the collision of Turkish and Greek vessels and the confrontation of fighter aircrafts have made the solution of the dispute even more difficult.Also the opposition of French and Turkish policies about Libya and East Med and the ascended escalation between Turkey and France in the Mediterranean in June have brought Paris and Athens closer.In the disputed maritime zones, the possession of drilling rights and energy research licence of Total the French energy company has led France to stand against Turkey.
The chancellor Angela Merkel requested the president Erdoğan to temporarily suspension of the military and research activities for the peaceful settlement of the dispute.Ankara, in line with its calls for a fair and amicable resolution, fulfilled this request of Germany and suspended the Navtex declaration in July.While the talks were continuing, Greece signed an EEZ agreement with Egypt and Ankara was perceived this aciton as misuse of good offices.This move of Athens has frustrated the parties on the table.As an interesting fact, the United States dominant power of the last century has not been playing an active role to offer a solution in that issue.Washington has been closely monitoring the process in the region, however, neither the US nor NATO has taken a firm action to reduce the tension between two substantial allies.
To conclude, Germany’s efforts to gather the sides around the table have failed.In a different perspective, both Greek and Turkish policymakers think that stakes compromised may cause negative public reactions in domestic policies.Thus, the possibility of negotiation in near future seems unrealistic.By the end of August, Athens deployed troops to the Megisti Island approximately two kilometers away from Turkish mainland.Ankara, on the other hand, has decreased the level of engagement down to the warship captains in the East Mediterranean.Mutual provocations and assertive statements of both sides give the impression that a war risk is possible.A war which may break out between the parties can cause deterioration of relations and cooperation in NATO and between Turkey and Greece and the EU.The pandemic will worsen Greek and Turkish economies already in bad shape.Also, a possible war can cause deeper wounds in both economies and economical development may take more time.Therefore, NATO and the EU should find efficient and peaceful formulas to key this problem immediately and an amicable atmosphere should be created in the Eastern Mediterranean through diplomacy.
This article is written by Eren Çetin