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Turkish expansionism in the Mediterranean

Turkish expansionism in the Mediterranean

From conflict with Greece to the historical dispute over Cyprus, passing through Ankara’s interventionism in the conflicts in Syria and Libya, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regime demonstrates its will to establish itself as a regional imperialist power in the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The “sultan” of Ankara is increasingly endangering the characteristics of secular Turkey founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk almost a century ago. At the same time has discovered more and more decisively his cards in the field of foreign policy, revealing Turkey’s imperialist ambitions, forgetting the existence of the Greek island of Crete and controlling Northern Cyprus.

The most recent events regarding Turkish expansionism in the Mediterranean have further rekindled the fuse of the historic rivalry with Greece, which has already re-emerged due to Ankara’s controversial management of migratory flows.

Recently, the Turkish government announced the start of an exploration of the seabed off the Greek island of Kastellorizo, to exploit its natural gas fields. The small island, just twelve square kilometers in size, faces the Turkish province of Antalya. Similar episodes had already occurred in the early 2000s, when Turkey began explorations off the island of Cyprus, the historical subject of the dispute between Greeks and Turks.

From Ankara’s point of view, such movements are a response to agreements between the other states in the region for the joint exploitation of seabed resources. In early August, Athens signed a deal with Egypt. At the beginning of the year, Greece also entered into an agreement with Cyprus and Israel for the construction of a gas pipeline, known as East Med, which connected the Israeli fields of Tamar and Leviathan to the islands of Cyprus and Crete, and then landed in mainland Greece.

In response to the agreement between Israel, Cyprus, and Greece, Turkey, in November 2019, signed an accord with the Libyan government recognized by the international community of Fayez al-Sarraj, on the unification of the two countries’ EEZs.

The plan decided by Ankara and Tripoli, however, provocatively ignores the existence of the Greek islands in the Aegean, including Crete and the island of Cyprus. That is why the governments of Athens and Nicosia rejected the deal.

This situation is creating further tensions both within NATO, given that both Greece and Turkey are members of the Atlantic Alliance and within the European Union. In fact, within the EU, Greece and Cyprus have asked the other member countries to apply sanctions against Turkey, obtaining the support of France.

Ankara has also used the migratory waves from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries as a form of blackmail against Europe and has given rise to a push and pull of relations with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, depending on the interests of the moment. In reality, Turkey has proven to be an unreliable partner for both NATO and Moscow, and to pursue only its objectives even in defiance of the agreements made previously.

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