Turkey, Turkish Cypriots, Greece, and Greek Cypriots can end the energy dilemma in the Eastern Mediterranean through dialogue, while keeping interests of all legitimate stakeholders in mind.
Lately, Greece attempted a unilateralist agreement with Egypt on its maritime boundaries. This deal is in disregard of international law, and a textbook example of a one-sided fait accompli(s) in a disputed zone – it only provides more international and regional instability.
Acting unilaterally, Greece, along with Greek Cypriot administration, is aiming to monopolise the energy wealth in the region and exclude other legitimate stakeholders like Turkey, Libya, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
In a response that attempted to safeguard its interests, Ankara accelerated its energy aspiration in the region but left the door open for dialogue with its Mediterranean neighbours to find a fair, comprehensive and permanent solution to the dispute.
Turkish President Erdogan stated, “Turkey is always ready to resolve Eastern Mediterranean issue through dialogue on an equitable basis.” He called on the Mediterranean countries to cooperate in finding “an acceptable formula that protects the rights of all.”
Similarly, the German government spokesman, Steffen Seibert, stated: “There is an urgent need for the involved parties, Greece and Turkey, to engage in direct talks to discuss legal maritime disputes and hopefully resolve them.”
In a similar vein, NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, emphasised, “the situation must be resolved in a spirit of Allied solidarity and in accordance with international law.”
However, the statements emanating from Greek diplomats over Turkey’s latest energy aspiration and cooperation option with Ankara are not constructive enough to open channels for dialogue and find a political settlement in the region thus far.
Greece’s anti-Turkey diplomacy has, moreover, continued to constitute the most significant impediment, stalling genuine efforts to find a resolution in sharing exclusive economic zones (EZZ) of Mediterranean neighbours.
Therefore, changing the bellicose attitudes by Greece and the Greek Cypriot Administration, while considering Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) as partners, not enemies, is paramount if the achievement of a prosperous neighbourhood in the Eastern Mediterranean is to be realised.
Suppose that Turkey, Greece, Turkish and Greek Cypriots negotiate the Eastern Mediterranean’s energy dilemma? Such a regional partnership would have a remarkable potential to boost a resolution. This is probably the best scenario for the prosperity and development.
In such an event, neighbours (also NATO allies) Athens and Ankara, could have a regional agreement for a joint exploration campaign. The Turkish research facilities would be enough for both sides to access their share of the region’s wealth.
That can serve Athens’s interest because the Greeks do not have necessary drilling vessels, thus their energy explorations are dependent on other foreign energy giants like Italy’s Eni and France’s Total. Turkey has three modern drilling vessels and two seismic research ships ready.
In any case, Turkish pipelines are the best way to transport and commercialise the potentially discovered natural gas resources to Europe and beyond, not least with its energy transportation projects like the TurkStream and TANAP.
Although all negotiations have been postponed, there is still a chance of developing an inclusive political consensus for cooperation through a common platform that includes all parties in the region.
The international community must push for a comprehensive, constructive, and collaborative solution through an international cooperating joint platform.
It must include Turkey, the legitimate UN-backed government of Libya, and the TRNC because of their geopolitical positions in regards to international law.
The biggest obstacles facing the establishment of such a fruitful negotiation platform, are the incendiary discourse and attitudes from some European politicians – the escalating of tensions is counter-productive.
For example, French President Emmanuel Macron demanded EU sanctions against Turkey by alleging Turkey’s legitimate activities in its southeastern shores are “violations.” instead of being seen as a genuine effort to achieve a settlement in the region.
President Macron’s statement had shock value but brought nothing positive to the table. It only reflected his government’s diplomatic failure in Libya by supporting warlord Khalifa Haftar against the UN-backed government which Ankara has stood behind as a key stabilising player within the Libyan arena.
This policy of brinkmanship will not help bring about any resolution, nor will it bode well in the possible facilitating of a regional partnership in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Therefore, as Ankara has expressed its willingness to engage in dialogue with all stakeholders, including the Greeks, all parties should reciprocate equally in order to achieve a win-win resolution for fostering settlement, stability, and in the hope of attaining prosperity in the region.
Furthermore, the United Nations (UN) must step up to the plate over this matter. Helping to organise a cooperation platform would be an excellent way to start.