Why eastern Mediterranean has become a crisis centre for Europe

Edited By: Palki Sharma WION
New Delhi Published: Aug 20, 2020, 10:31 PM(IST)

'Imprisoning Turkey within its coastline' Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been militarising the eastern Mediterranean region where several geopolitical faultlines converge.

A new geopolitical storm brewing in the Mediterranean threatens to become a multinational conflict and it could engulf Europe.

Currently, there are two factions, on one hand, there are European countries like France, Cyprus and Greece, one the other there's Turkey - a country that wants to establish a modern-day Islamic Caliphate and is taking a cue from China's expansionism.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been militarising the eastern Mediterranean region where several geopolitical faultlines converge. There are maritime boundary disputes, claims and counterclaims of sovereignty which were local affairs but in the last five years it has become serious due to the strategic value of the area and the discovery of offshore natural gas reserves which is estimated to be worth trillions of dollars and therefore conflicts over these reserves have began.

Earlier this month, Greek and Turkish vessels collided in the eastern Mediterranean region as both sides called the collision an "accident", however, what followed tells a different story.

It was not an accident but was a deliberate move. It was Turkey's way of flexing its naval muscle while declaring that the de facto boundaries that exist in these waters were illegitimate.

The Turkish vessel Oruc Reis that collided remains stationed not far from the collision site. Erdogan says the vessel is exploring oil and gas in the Mediterranean and that it will continue to do so till August 23 if attempts are made to stop it from doing so then Turkey will retaliate.

"They will receive their answer in kind," said the Turkish president.

Meanwhile, Greece has asked the European Union to respond to Turkey's aggression. Greece says Turkey's actions are illegal and it has exclusive economic rights in the disputed waters, Cyprus says the same and alleges that Turkey wants to destabilise the Mediterranean region and that it is trying to blackmail and threaten European countries into submission.

However, the European Union remains divided on how to handle Turkey. The six Mediterranean based European countries are evenly split. Greece, Cyprus and France want strong action against Turkey while Italy, Malta and Spain don't want to get involved probably because they share commercial interests with Turkey.

Now, all eyes are now on Germany which holds the EU presidency till July next year. It can lead the way and break the deadlock but Berlin is known to keep Ankara close to the European Union and right now it is looking the other way. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been accused of appeasing Erdogan for Germany's energy interests since it relies on external sources to get natural gas and ties with Turkey come in handy.

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