19 August 2020   1 comment

Turkey has been very assertive in the politics of the Middle East and the Mediterranean over the last few years. Its role in the Syrian civil war was decisive in removing US troops from Syria, much to the detriment of the interests of Kurds and civilians in the conflict. It has also been active in the Libyan civil war, squaring off against Russian interests in the country and supporting the Government of National Accord. Less noticed has been Turkey’s increasingly assertive claims on oil and gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean, leading to tensions with Greece and Cyprus. Deutsche Welle explains the controversy:

“The quarrel has to do with Turkish claims to maritime territories in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. For decades, Ankara has been of the opinion that the many Greek islands off Turkey’s Aegean coast should be entitled only to a much reduced Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), if any. An EEZ is a sea zone in which a sovereign state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources. EEZs are prescribed according to the United Nations’ Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982…

“Only islands that are inhabitable or can support independent economic activity can claim an EEZ of 200 nautical miles. However, if this zone overlaps with that of another state, both states have to come to an agreement on where the border lies within the framework of UNCLOS.”

Turkey has made an agreement with Libya which is claims gives it rights to the south of Crete. According to Foreign Policy:

“In a bid to break out of its regional isolation, in November 2019 Turkey signed its own maritime demarcation agreement with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) in war-torn Libya. The deal was an attempt to gain greater legal standing to challenge the maritime borders Greece had established with Cyprus and Egypt, upon which their eastern Mediterranean natural gas development plans depend. The Ankara-Tripoli maritime boundary agreement was accompanied by a military cooperation pact providing the GNA a security guarantee against the efforts of General Khalifa Haftar’s forces, backed by France and Egypt, to topple the Tripoli-based government.  The GNA formally activated its military pact with Ankara in December, linking the already tense maritime stand-off in the Eastern Mediterranean to the Libyan civil war.”

Every state bordering the Mediterranean, except for Libya, has repudiated Turkey’s maritime claims. Greece and Egypt have been quite insistent on rejecting the Turkish claims, reviving centuries-old tensions among those states.

The claims to the southwest of Cyprus are also controversial. Turkey invaded the northeast part of the island in 1974 in response to a Greek-backed military coup on the island and its continued occupation of the region has been a thorn in Turkish-European Union relations (Cyprus is a member of the European Union). These maritime claims are easily resolvable through adherence to the UN Conference on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), but it is clear that Turkey at this time has no intention of paying any attention to international law.

Turkey has few oil and gas reserves on its own, so it is eager to find what it regards as its own reserves. But the Turkish-Libyan agreements are reminiscent of the old Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, an empire to which Turkish President Erdogan often celebrates.

Posted August 19, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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  1. Pingback: 5 September 2020 | World Politics News

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