Tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean are escalating anew to dangerous levels. Turkey responded to a Greek-Egyptian maritime agreement, which undermined Germany’s mediation efforts, by dispatching the research vessel Oruç Reis, alongside frigates, to the Mediterranean Sea. The Greek military consequently went into high alert.
The current tension in the Eastern Mediterranean between Turkey and Greece is a consequence of Greece’s unfair and maximalist claims that violate Turkey’s rights in the region. Any sober analyst would agree on the unfair nature of the plans that Athens tries to impose on Ankara. These aggressive claims are supported by actors like France, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who all have their own problems with Turkey.
Tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean seem incapable of de-escalating. Although the situation on the Sirte-Jufra line in Libya remains under control thanks to Turkey’s diplomatic talks with the U.S. and Russia, last week’s explosion in Lebanon and the Greco-Egyptian maritime deal fueled tensions anew. Athens and Cairo recently announced that they had concluded an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) agreement, directly challenging Turkey’s November 2019 deal with Libya. As a matter of fact, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias did not hesitate to describe that agreement as “the opposite” of the Turkish-Libyan treaty.
Turkey’s most recent steps in Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean raised questions in foreign capitals about that country’s international standing. As Americans grappled with President Donald Trump’s call to delay the 2020 elections, the European media went berzerk over the Hagia Sophia’s reclassification as a mosque. On the one hand, they called on European leaders to respond to “Sultan” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whom they charged with neo-Ottomanist expansionism. At the same time, European reporters appreciate that Erdoğan has been filling the power vacuum that the United States left behind, empowering his country in the process. They also understand that the Turkish president, as an experienced leader, does what his European counterparts fail to do and takes his country to a new level of agency.