The two NATO Allies, Turkey-Greece are having disputes. Everything started when Turkey discovered large gas reserves. Turkey and Greece are claiming rights in common areas. In July, Turkey put out a naval alert known as a Navtex: it was sending its Oruc Ries research ship to carry drilling survey in water. Turkey has rejected Greece’s complaints regarding the ships planned voyage as against international law.
Last year, gas reserves were discovered in waters off Cyprus, prompting the Cypriot government, Greece, Israel, and Egypt to work together. France suspends the NATO mission role amid Turkey row. Turkey is standing alone in this dispute.
Why are Turkey and Greece making a claim on the Mediterranean Sea?
The gas reserves discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea are estimated to be as big as 3.5 trillion m^2. When neighboring countries forge a new alliance, the old wounds flare-up, and it leads to dispute. In 1974, Turkey and Cyprus with Greece fought a war. The main reason behind this friction is Cyprus. Due to the conflict in 1974, Greece controls the southern half, and Turkey controls the northern part.
Not only that, economically speaking, but every country also wants more shares than the other. For a long time, Europe wanted to reduce its reliance on Russia for gas. This opportunistic moment helped Egypt who is drilling oil & gas which turned it to a regional exporter.
What is the main reason behind tension?
The UNs convention of the law of the sea defines the territorial rights. The document allocates up to 12 nautical miles of any nation shore as their territorial and up to 200 nautical miles as EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone).
But Turkey didn’t sign the UN convention. Turkey is deciding the limits of their EEZs. Turkey uses the continental shelf theory which says that a country, landmass extends to edge of the continental shelf. In this theory, the island has only 12 miles (EEZ).
Israel has planned to make a pipeline to Europe to export gas. But this project is expensive to due to the length of the pipeline which is around 2000km.
Turkey wants to be self-dependent on energy. Hence, Turkey is refusing to acknowledge Cyprus EEZ. But Turkey has made their deal. Now, Turkey is involved not only in Syria but also in Libya. Turkey supports the National Accord of Libya, and Egypt UAE, France started supporting the Warlord of Libya after Turkey sent its army to support Libya GNA government.
The block made by Libya and Turkey is very near to the Greece islands of Crete. This action immediately invoked condemnation from Greece and the international community. But Turkey is not willing to stop exploration of gas and warns Greece for military action.
Turkey announced, it will send exploration ships into the contested blocks of Crete Island, and Greece replied that those vessels would sink. It seems as Turkey is standing alone in this dispute. Also, many European countries criticize Turkey for this dispute.
Will Turkey and Greece start a war for natural resources?
Turkey has an attitude to be alone and has upset its neighbors. In May, France sent an aircraft carrier near the island, and the French company started drilling gas. France accused that Turkey doesn’t want to cooperate.
Turkey is desperate for natural gas because it impacts 80% of energy. If Turkey explores natural gas, then it will become self-sufficient. Exploration of gas is significant for Turkey because, in the upcoming years, the contract of gas will expire. Until last year, Russia was a key source of gas for Turkey.
Germany is trying to mediate between two NATO allies. Heiko Mass, the German foreign minister, said what we need are visible steps towards the escalation, and a genuine readiness for dialogue and I have been hearing from all side that there is a willingness for this dialogue, and we believe in holding talks achievable. In the end, binding a peaceful solution to the eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey calls Greece a spoiled child who has unconditional support from the EU. Turkey foreign minister said that we would defend our rights. We carry out drills, and we do not say that we will not make a mistake, but we do whatever is necessary without any hesitation. Also, Greece calls for a diplomatic solution but stands ready with the military.
Turkey had decided to claim a stake via diplomatic means. In November 2019, the country signed a maritime agreement with Libya. In this agreement, both countries extended their EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) from the southern coast of Turkey to the northern coast of Libya and EEZ gives exclusive right to drill. This deal ensured that no Eastern Mediterranean energy settlement would take place without Ankara joining the negotiating table.
The start of the Turkey-Greece dispute:
Let us go back to 1974, to understand what happened because it has a massive impact on today’s situation and increasing dispute between Turkey and Greece stem from the Cyprus issue. During the ottoman empire money, Turks started to settle in Cyprus. After world-war-I United Kingdom controlled Cyprus, but in 1960 Cyprus gained independence from the United Kingdom. Later, tensions rose between the Greek Cypriots and Turks living there.
In 1974, Greece and Turkey invaded Cyprus and divided it into two parts. But Greek does not recognize. Turkey controlled the northern part of Cyprus, and hence both countries are claiming Cyprus EEZ.
TRT editor said the maritime issue has always been a source of connection between Turkey and Greece because of the unique geography of the region. When we check the map, the Aegean Sea Greek island is very close to turkey. This island projects territorial waters beyond 3km or 3nautical mills, and it creates an incredible bottleneck on the Turkish coast. Hence this is something that Turkey finds very unacceptable.
Thank you for reading. I hope you understood the reason behind the dispute. Please give your valuable feedback in the comment section below.
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