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Erdogan, Cyprus and the Future of NATO

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In recent weeks a dramatic escalation of tension around Turkish oil drilling rig presence in the disputed Exclusive Enterprise Zone surrounding EU member state Cyprus is taking place. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is claiming that Turkey has the right to drill not only in the waters off of Northern Cyprus, but also in waters far from there where Greek Cyprus has claimed rights. The actions, moving Turkish oil and gas drilling platforms into the waters, is creating a dramatic new clash in the energy-rich Eastern Mediterranean. The line-up of actors makes for a political Molotov cocktail of clashing interests that potentially pits not only Turkey against Cyprus and Greece, but also Israel and the USA, with Russia and China watching with keen interest.

On June 20 Turkey announced it was sending a second ship to waters off Cyprus to drill for oil and gas. It claims that it has maritime rights owing to its recognition of Turkish Cypriots in the Northeast part of the island facing Turkey. Since the island was divided in 1974, only Turkey has officially recognized Northern Cyprus, which calls itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus with some 36% of the island area. The rest of the island, known as the Republic of Cyprus, is recognized as a sovereign EU member state and is historically close to Greece. In July 2017 UN brokered talks on unifying the island broke down and energy tensions rose.

In 2011 vast oil and especially natural gas fields were discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean near Cyprus and as well off Israel, Lebanon and potentially Egypt. The entire region could contain more than 500 trillion cubic feet of gas. The Eastern Mediterranean since then has become a focus of energy geopolitics and rising tension. When Cyprus granted drilling rights to ENI in February last year, Turkey sent warships to the area, forcing........

© New Eastern Outlook