Mediterranean gas and regional peace


In recent years, the Eastern Mediterranean has become one of the main crossroads of global geopolitics. Turkey is one of the main Mediterranean countries: from the Syrian border in the east to Greece in the west, the northeastern part of the Mediterranean is made up of Turkish territorial waters and borders. Eastern Mediterranean countries such as Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Egypt and Greece are located in the oldest lands of mankind, making this region the cradle of civilization.

In the 17th century, when the Ottoman Empire saw its widest borders, the Mediterranean had almost become a Turkish lake. The Ottoman Empire ruled the region, which stretched from Greece and Egypt to North Africa and the entire Middle East. After World War I, when the Ottoman Empire dissolved, North Africa and the Middle East were partitioned between Britain and France, while the Aegean islands were given to Italy.

After the end of World War II, however, the colonial empires of Britain and France were shattered by independence movements in the colonized countries. One by one, the countries of the Middle East and North Africa won their national independence. As Italy gave up the Aegean islands, Greece was given the so-called Dodecanese. It was a unilateral and illegitimate decision that would create a series of political and social crises in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Populated by Turks and Greeks, Cyprus was under the guarantee of the United Kingdom, Turkey and Greece. When military rule was established in Greece in 1967, putschists invaded Cyprus in pursuit of the imperial “Megali Idea”. In an unexpected move, Turkey landed troops in northern Cyprus and delineated the borders of the present Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

At that time, Turkey was ruled by a coalition government consisting of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the National Salvation Party (NSP). Bülent Ecevit was a left-wing indigenous leader, while Necmettin Erbakan defended the union of Islamic countries. Thanks to the cooperation between these two strong political leaders, the peace operation in Cyprus was launched despite fierce resistance from the United States. After a long period of recession, Turkey saved part of its former territory from Western countries. It was a break in terms of Turkey’s status in international politics.

The presence of natural gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean has transformed the region into one of the main intersection points of global geopolitics. Due to Turkey’s problematic relations with Egypt, Israel, Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, an anti-Turkish coalition was founded between these Eastern Mediterranean countries. From the start, however, excluding Turkey, one of the main Mediterranean countries, from the region was an impossible task.

Following the saying “if you desire peace, prepare for war”, Turkey has sent its navy to the Mediterranean to break the implied siege. In Libya, left to its fate after the Arab Spring, Turkey supported the government recognized by the United Nations against the putschist general Khalifa Haftar. By drawing a line with Libya across the Mediterranean, Turkey has made all previous economic zones problematic.

Today, Turkish-Israeli relations are softening with a rapprochement between Turkey and Egypt, while the United States has suspended gas transfers from Greece. Regarding the transfer of Mediterranean natural gas to Europe, Turkish gas basins could be added to those already existing in Israel, Egypt and the Greek Cypriot administration. The most suitable place for a transfer of natural gas seems to be using the existing Adana Yumurtalık gas pipeline, from where it could be transported to Europe via the already existing networks.

In Syria, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Nagorno-Karabakh war, Turkey has used its hard power effectively. This success has motivated world and regional powers to strengthen their diplomatic relations with Turkey. Mediterranean gas policy and opportunities could lead to the establishment of a lasting regional peace. It is very likely that Turkey and Israel will be the pioneers of this peace process. Their common geography obliges these two countries to rediscover their relations and to cooperate for their mutual interests.

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