The shaky Libyan government gives Turks pieces of sea in exchange for weapons. Ankara wants to search for oil and gas there.
Turkey continues to defy its neighbors around the Mediterranean. On Monday, a drone landed in the northern part of Cyprus, occupied by Ankara, to help search for gas in the sea. That is against the sore leg of the internationally recognized government of Cyprus, which thinks that Ankara has no business in its waters. And Turkey is also at odds with Greece over an agreement with Libya on the division of the sea. In exchange, in exchange for arms support to Tripoli, Turkey is allocated whole pieces that, according to Athens, belong to Greece.
Because of that deal, Greece went to the United Nations last week. Turkey and Libya waters are not even adjacent to each other, and the agreement is not in line with maritime law, the government says. In addition, it receives support from the EU, as well as from the United States, Russia and other countries in the region. They all condemned the agreement and declared it invalid.
But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan does not seem impressed yet. He appeared on television on Sunday, sitting in front of a large map. It showed that the Turkish sea zone extends almost to the coast of Crete and Rhodes, and that it also includes the waters surrounding the remote but inhabited Greek island of Kastelorizo. “Here we can do soil research and then we can drill there,” said Erdogan, referring to a point below Crete where, according to the agreement, the Turkish sea is touching the Libyan.
A complicating factor is that the internationally recognized government in the Libyan capital Tripoli does not control the entire country. The regime of the competing “Field Marshal” Haftar has condemned the deal and is taking the side of Greece. Athens has now expelled Libya’s official ambassador.
Cyprus is also supported by the international community. The European Union is preparing sanctions for activities in Cypriot waters, where two Turkish research vessels are already sailing. This weekend it was announced that the Turkish navy has driven off an Israeli ship that was investigating the island state with the permission of the Cypriot authorities. Nicosia announced earlier this month that it is going to the International Court of Justice in The Hague to bring the case up.
Ankara stands almost alone in its interpretation of the borders on the Mediterranean. It can be said that this can go a long way in 1996, when it almost came to an armed conflict with Greece over two uninhabited rocks. Turkish fighter jets are also constantly flying into Greek airspace – more than 4,000 times this year, according to the Greeks.
Display of power Erdogan
Yet it seems unlikely that there will really be a war between the NATO allies, as Turkey stands alone. It is more plausible that Erdogan demonstrates his power to enforce concessions, or for domestic political gain.
Turkey, in turn, invokes international law to lecture Greece on refugees. According to Ankara, his western neighbor has forced 60,000 refugees back across the border over the years, which is banned internationally.
Despite various testimonies, Athens denies those practices. But this weekend, the German weekly Der Spiegel published eleven videos made with Turkish security cameras and telephones. It shows how masked men migrate from the Greek side of the border river Evros. According to Der Spiegel, analysis by experts shows that the images are authentic.