Tension Between Turkey and Greece Are Escalating Yet Again

In February 2018, an Italian oil company found something in the eastern Mediterranean. A huge gas field right off the coast of Cyprus. This field was part of the region’s vast gas deposits, estimated to be as big as 3.5 trillion cubic meters. That’s enough potential energy.

Tension is mounting in the eastern Mediterranean over these discoveries as countries vie for control in an area rich with unclaimed resources. The potential for military action is rising as neighbor forge new alliances and old wound flare up in the region to scramble to secure energy rights for the coming century and beyond.

It’s no surprise that everyone in the region wants a big piece of the pie as they can get .and for the most part they have claimed their shares. Egypt has started to exploit its oil and gas reserves and is now a regional exporter.

Europe has long been wanting to cut its reliance on Russian gas and the energy -hungry trading block would be an ideal market for eastern Mediterranean natural gas.

Reasons Behind Rising Tension in Eastern Mediterranean

The main cause of fiction here is Cyprus and the overlapping and competing claims different groups have made over it. Since a bloody conflict took place in 1974 the island has remained divided between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

The southern half, the majority -Greek republic of Cyprus, is recognized by United Nations. The Turkish Northern Cyprus is not internationally recognized but its autonomy is nonetheless guaranteed by Turkey.

Relations have got so bad between the fractious neighbors that both sides have threatened military action to defend what they say are their territorial rights over the sea.

Normally these territorial rights are defined by the UN’s convention of the law of the sea. This document allocates up to 12 nautical miles from any nation’s shore as its territorial waters and up to 200 nautical miles as EEZ.

As the name suggests, anything found in or under the ocean out to this distance is its own.

But unlike, Greece, the republic of Cyprus and most of the world’s nation Turkey did not sign that UN convention. Instead, it has its own way of deciding the limits of EEZs.

Turkey uses the continental Shelf theory which says that a country’s landmass and therefore the EEZ, extends underwater to the very edge of the continental shelf. Using this theory, they have refused to accept that islands can have these zones. They say any islands influence is only as far as 12 nautical miles.

These two calculation methods have triggered a cascade of claim and counterclaim. Early last year the energy minister’s Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, Jordon, Israel and Palestine all met in Cairo to discuss cooperation and the setting up of the east Mediterranean gas forum.

Turkey was pointedly not invited. Turkey is feeling diplomatically isolated and left out of this emerging system of cooperation. With the growing population and a reliance on imports for 90% of its natural gas. Turkey is desperate to secure its own supplies.

By refusing to acknowledged the Cyprus’ EEZ. Turkey does also not accept the bilateral deals Cyprus has made with Greece, Lebanon, Egypt and Israel.

Instead, Turkey has made its own deals. With its large armed forces Turkey is now involved not just in the northern Syria but also in rapidly expanding war in Libya.

In November, turkey and non recognized government of national accord of Libya signed a bilateral maritime deal that carved up a large portion of the Eastern Mediterranean between them.

Using their continental shelf method, they allocated themselves blocks for drilling and gas exploration. But several of these blocks were just off the Greek islands of Crete and Karpathos. This immediately invoked heavy condemnation from Greece and the international community as not only illegal but a major destabilizing move.

Turkey’s go -it -alone attitude is upsetting its neighbors and increasing atmosphere of conflict. In 2019 Dec, it sent armed drones to mind over exploration ships in the contested waters.

In May, a French air craft carrier contested drills off the coast of the island when France felt Turkey had encroached on the French oil companies were themselves exploring.

Turkey has signed a deal with Libya that maps out a boundary in the east of Mediterranean Sea, but in the middle is the Greece island of Crete. A map has been published by turkey shows Turkish and Libyan Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) meeting midway across Mediterranean Sea, over an area also claimed by Greece.

The EEZ is meant to be an area where both, turkey and Libya, can do exploration of oil, natural gas and various other resources, without any interference of Greece. This is taken as attack on sovereignty by Greece government.

This growing dispute triggered Greece to take some bold step like expelling of Libyan ambassador over this maritime boundary agreement with Turkey.

Who All Are Involved?

There are several countries involved with the rising tension between two NATO members.

Greece has constant backing of EU and meanwhile France for the time being deployed a frigate and two Rafale fighter jets in the contested regions of Eastern Mediterranean for joint naval partnership with Greece. The UAE has also sent fighter air crafts to Crete to take part.

Turkey and Libya on one side trying to move ahead with their deal as the centre point of all the disputes is Cyprus, the country had requested justice and ruling from International Court of Justice.

I would like to conclude by highlighting a known fact that if the countries involved in the same issue repond in a way in which everyone’s interest is satisfied all of them can benefit from the potential resources and wealth in the region.

But if this escalates and turns into a war with all the military and army involved the Mediterranean area will not only be destabilised but will be devasted in terms of economy, political, military, diplomatic and social ways, and will bring advantage to none.


Written by - Shalaka Pathak

Edited by – Adrija Saha

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