Latest developments across the East Med

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There had been critical hopes that the Greece-Turkey maritime dispute was on the best way to be defused. It seemed as if concerted efforts by Germany to de-escalate confrontation and produce the 2 sides again to discussions had been paying-off. Turkey pulled its seismic survey vessel Oruc Reis away from the disputed space on September 18 and some days later its drilling-rig Yavuz left Cyprus’ EEZ.
Turkey even agreed to a NATO-brokered ‘military de-confliction mechanism’ with Greece, designed to cut back the chance of incidents and accidents within the East Med, however these hopes had been short-lived. On October 12 Oruc Reis was again within the disputed space, supported by the Turkish Navy.
At a summit on October 16, the EU-27 stated they “deplore renewed unilateral and provocative actions by Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean, including recent exploratory activities.” They urged Turkey to reverse this and reiterated their “full solidarity” with Greece and Cyprus.
The restart of the surveys additionally embarrassed German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who earlier fended-off calls throughout the EU to sanction Turkey. Her spokesman stated it “most certainly would be anything but conducive to the continued development of EU-Turkish relations.”
The US State Department stated it “deplores” Turkey’s determination to restart surveys within the disputed area, and referred to as on Turkey to “end this calculated provocation.”
But including oil to the fireplace, the Turkish Energy Minister introduced on October 20 that Oruc Reis will proceed its present actions for one more two months and probably longer “depending on the results of the surveys.”
Greece shouldn’t be being drawn into naval confrontation however stated it would pursue all different avenues to withstand Turkey’s actions. Its response to date is “We are not following Turkey in its game”.
In parallel with Turkey’s persistence to keep up pressure with Greece, one other seismic vessel, Barbaros, continues its actions in Cyprus’ blocks 6 and seven.
On the face of it, it seems that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan missed alternative by sending Oruc Reis again, ostensibly for brand spanking new surveys. But did he or was it deliberate? By doing so he snapped the EU and significantly Germany that put a lot into bringing Greece and Turkey again from confrontation into discussions.
A sound query one is sure to ask now could be: is Erdogan significantly all in favour of a negotiated resolution, or is he decided to keep up confrontation for inside political causes? Certainly, Turkey is at varied states of confrontation with all its neighbours, at Erdogan’s selecting.
Especially as seismic surveys for hydrocarbons are nothing however an excuse. Not solely these can not happen successfully with so many warships round Oruc Reis, however the probability of discovering hydrocarbons on this space is small. By perpetuating battle, is it an try and deflect Turkish public opinion?
Given these current actions, evidently Erdogan prefers to keep up disputes as a distraction to divert inside opinion from his rising issues with Turkey’s worsening financial system and COVID-19. If that is the rationale, then the dangers for a sizzling incident may improve because the state of affairs inside Turkey deteriorates. So when Jens Stoltenberg, NATO General Secretary expressed concern this week concerning the rising pressure within the East Med, he could also be well-justified.
Whatever it’s, resumption of discussions is the one smart approach ahead. Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis can afford to shadow the Turkish Navy and wait. His standing inside Greece is powerful, as is help from the EU and the US, and with the funds, he’s about to obtain from EU’s Recovery Plan, Greece’s financial system will likely be on the mend.
Apart from reacting strongly to those new provocations, the EU-27 won’t go a lot additional for now. They will nonetheless give Ankara time, till their summit in December, to return to the unique plans and begin discussions with Greece. This is the popular approach ahead by the EU, but when aggressive actions proceed past that then it might be pressured to behave. But to date although the EU has been reluctant to take any critical motion, regardless of Mr Erdogan’s taunts.
Whatever Ankara is aiming for, nothing could be achieved by way of its present actions. Only discussions and negotiations can result in a decision of those disputes. Let us hope that sense finally prevails.
In the in the meantime on October 19 Turkey introduced that it has found one other 85bcm pure gasoline on the Sakarya gas-field within the Black Sea, taking the overall confirmed reserves to 405bcm. It nonetheless plans to develop the sector by 2023, however that is more likely to show fairly a problem. However, the truth that this isn’t altering Turkey’s aggressive posturing within the East Med is one other affirmation that hydrocarbons have little to do with it.
In one other improvement, on October 18 Turkish Cypriots elected a brand new chief, Ersin Tatar, following unprecedented, and open, help by Erdogan. Immediately after the election, in a phone dialog, Erdogan and Tatar reopened their East Med hydrocarbons claims.
Completion of those elections restores circumstances for renewed efforts to resolve the Cyprus drawback. The UN Secretary-General has confirmed he is able to recommence his efforts for the resumption of negotiations. However, it stays to be seen whether or not the answer of the Cyprus drawback remains to be a precedence for Turkey.
With the disaster within the oil and gasoline sector persevering with and big cost-cutting, restructuring and reorganization of the worldwide oil corporations in progress, there isn’t a signal of any plans to renew exploration within the East Med. On the opposite, the International Energy Agency warned in its current World Energy Outlook that “higher cost development projects…look increasingly difficult to justify,” significantly in areas such because the East Med. One extra cause why citing hydrocarbons as the foundation of East Med disputes is deceptive.