Every development in the Eastern Mediterranean continues to change both the agenda and the politics of the region.
Turkey has experienced tensions with Egypt and Greece in recent months because of the gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean. The agreement signed in last August between Egypt and Greece to draw the sea borders has increased this tension, Turkish feeling heightened pressure. The tension between Ankara and Cairo’s relations has already been recorded/continued since 2013, especially, when former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, connected to the Muslim Brotherhood supported by Turkey, was removed from office.
The organization of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum in 2019 happened between Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Italy, and Palestine, whereas Turkey was excluded, being an example of the tensions.
In recent days, Egypt, one of the littoral states in the Eastern Mediterranean, has named the 28th east meridian as the activity area for a governmental contract to investigate the sources of energy in the region, which is bordering the southern line of the area reported to United Nations as belonging to the Turkish continental shelf by Turkey. The action is regarded as a development with the potential to change regional dynamics. Turkey evaluated this rational move of Egypt as respecting its own maritime jurisdiction. In this manner, Turkey Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said, “As the two countries with the longest land and coasts in the Eastern Mediterranean, we may negotiate the issue of the maritime jurisdiction with Egypt in the next days, and we may sign an agreement between us in the future.” and has opened the door for a possible change in the region.
Turkey Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın, on the other hand, said in his interview a few days ago, “A new page can be turned for regional peace and stability with Egypt and other Gulf countries”. Mustafa Goksu, Turkey’s Ambassador in Doha, despite the ongoing political tension between the two sides, also voiced Turkey’s optimism that the improvement of relations with Egypt.
- Egypt’s announcement of the hydrocarbon exploration contract which takes into consideration of the continental shelf boundaries that Turkeys reported to the UN, was featured in the Greek press recently with the headline “Open door from Cairo to Ankara”.
According to the Anadolu Agency, Egypt’s move has proven once again that it is not possible to make an attempt, which ignores Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean. When the area determined by Egypt is examined, while deciding the contract, and even though Turkey was not included in the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, it shows that Turkey is one of the most important determinants in the region. In addition, its legitimate policy determined on the basis of international law and as a littoral state with the longest coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, although Greece might voice out contestations in this regard. However, when the current situation is viewed from the perspective of Turkey, a Maritime Boundary Delimitation Agreement realized between the two countries with the longest shorelines in the region could reduce the tension by blocking actions of both Greece and the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus and could serve as a basis for an agreement with Israel, which is in a critical position in the region. Another consequence of this situation in terms of Turkey is that the situation could create an appropriate environment for the agreement to provide transportation of Israel and Egypt’s present and future energy resources to Europe while using Turkey as the shortest and safest way. When the situation is evaluated from the perspective of Egypt, such an approach will create an atmosphere of trust and will create an opportunity for the normalization of relations between the two countries with the longest coastlines in the Eastern Mediterranean. The relations that will develop with the environment of trust that will emerge as a result of such an agreement will not only be limited to the Eastern Mediterranean but will also open the way for many cooperation possibilities that will benefit both countries. However, the most important benefit of a possible agreement signed between Turkey and Egypt is that Egypt can take back the jurisdiction area lost with the delimitation agreements signed with Greece and the Greek Cypriot Administration, and thus, Egypt can have a legitimate area of jurisdiction based on the international law in the Eastern Mediterranean. Greek Prime Minister Kiryakos Miçotakis and President al-Sisi talked about the areas of cooperation between the two countries after Turkey giving Cairo the “green light”. Bassam Radi, the spokesperson for the Egyptian Presidency, has said that the leaders discussed “close bilateral relations in various fields, particularly energy and Eastern Mediterranean cooperation”. While President al-Sisi expresses Egypt’s desire to develop various aspects of constructive cooperation, especially in the fields of energy, economy, and security, the Greek prime minister also expressed his willingness to consult with Egypt on regional issues of common interest. In this sense, according to Şarkul Avsat, Egypt did not take notice of Turkish calls, accelerating the transition to cooperation with Greece in the energy field. In this manner, Egyptian Foreign Minister Samih Shukri, who hosted his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias in Cairo on March 8, 2021, emphasized the strength of Egyptian-Greek relations at all levels and the friendly ties between the two countries. Shukri and Dendias welcomed the political consultations between the two countries to coordinate positions on all developments in the region.
Note: This analysis are using the data from tr.euronews.com, Aa.com.tr, turkish.aawsat.com
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About the author:
Ms. Erva Nur KÖK is a final year student at the International Relations Department at Eskişehir Osmangazi University, Turkey. Erva’s academic interests are the Middle East region, war studies, human rights, and international law. She wants to study for a master's degree in the field of International Law and Human rights. She is a junior researcher at the Middle East Research Center of Ariel University. Erva has also been writing and managing EU projects for a few years, performing volunteer works at various foundations and associations.