Turkey at the Eastern Mediterranean Crossroads – Dr. Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak, The Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, February 12, 2019
Turkey at the Eastern Mediterranean Crossroads
Dr. Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak
The Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security
12th February 2019
First of all I would like to introduce myself, my name is Dr. Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak, and I’m affiliated with the Moshe Dayan Center at the Tel Aviv University and Jerusalem Institute for strategy and security.
Today, I would like to speak about the Turkish perspective on the eastern Mediterranean. First of all we need to understand something that this discovery of natural gas changed the whole picture in the eastern Mediterranean. While the Turkish Foreign Policy once designed upon a more, you know, national concerns with the vis-à-vis Greek Cypriots, and Greece, and now it is much more complex because of this eastern Mediterranean the fact that also Egypt, Israel, Greece, and Cyprus also found this natural gas bounty, so this basically created a common denominator between these four states, and I would also like to emphasize the fact that the current Turkish foreign policy which is very critical against Israel and Egypt and also of course with a vis-a-vis the Republic of Cyprus and Greece, they created a common denominator between these four states. In a way, I may say, that this antagonist Turkish foreign policy basically pushed Israel and Egypt to the arms of Greece and Republic of Cyprus, so it is very weird but the architect of this new alliance is Ankara, and not Jerusalem, Cairo, Nicosia or Athens.
This should be noted in advance, and these four states, as far as, I understand, they are very much aware of this huge potential of this natural gas, and as a result they are because they launched a rapprochement between themselves and of course another important a common denominator of this rapprochement, of course, is the is the sort of a political alliance against Turkey because these four states are suffering from harsh criticism from Turkey.
As a result we began to see a change of paradigm in Turkey’s eastern Mediterranean politics they came to a new crossroads, whether they will proceed alone and they will initiate a brinksmanship policy, which means that they’re going to send their fleet to eastern Mediterranean, and will cause troubles for international companies in order who would like to cooperate with the Cypriot government and with the Israelis and Egyptians, and the Greeks or they will choose whether to initiate a more harmonious foreign policy which it seems to me today is very far away from us but it’s also an option on the table of course since there is a huge the problem of confidence mutual trust, so I think this is the biggest obstacle that is that it is standing between Ankara and other four capitals, because these four capitals, they do not trust Turkey anymore, and one of the most important reasons is the is the daily bashing of Israel and Egypt in the domestic Turkish politics, mister Erdoğan is using these States in order to get more public approval at home. We already know that in the previous election campaigns bashing Israel or bashing Egypt especially Abdel Fattah el-Sisi resulted in a very positively effort for the Turkish president. Another important issue is the domestic Turkish politics, in this regard I would like to emphasize the new ally of the Turkish president the Nationalist Movement Party which, of course as you may understand from the name is a nationalist party and they have a very harsh sense two worlds Greece and towards a Republic of Cyprus. Of course, in order to satisfy this a political party of Devlet Bahçeli. Actually mister Erdoğan is doing everything almost in order to satisfy these this party and therefore we are seeing a more harsh Turkish foreign policy also towards, Greece and Cyprus because whenever Mr. Erdoğan is getting out and giving a very harsh statement against Greeks, whether Cypriots or Greeks in Greece, so again he is accumulating so much public approval at home.
So in a way we can say that the Turkish foreign policy became a hostage of Turkish domestic policy or in other words it is the public relations of the Justice and Development Party of Mr. Erdoğan, so in this regard fortunately, I cannot see any positive step and that Turkey can also become a genuine party of this cooperation this is a huge minus, also for other four states because if Turkey could become a genuine partner in this venture so also we could speak about a political solution, a peace solution also, for the island itself.
We may we could have seen that the natural gas could have been used for peaceful purposes as a catalyst in order to get to a genuine solution in the island then this basically could trigger prosperity for the whole region, I still personally want to believe that this will be the case this will be the point that we will we have to proceed but unfortunately what I’m seeing today in the field, we are very far away from this from this point. The Turkish fleet is also very much present in the eastern Mediterranean there are disputed zones with the Republic of Cyprus, Turkey is not recognizing the Republic of Cyprus as a legitimate state let alone its exclusive economic zones so it is a huge headache for this whole venture, and as a result this whole eastern Mediterranean pipeline may change its direction instead of Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, Greece, and Italy, maybe the direction should be Cyprus, Israel, Egypt and from there without a pipeline but with a liquefied natural gas option, it might be sent to Europe of course this is not what is desired but it is also it is also an option, and in this regard of course if we would like to see a prosperous eastern Mediterranean we may ask, and hope, for a sort of a recognition or maybe the Turks and the Cypriots can come and end the disputes between themselves in in terms of the maritime borders, but again we are very far away from this from this point