Turkey fuels regional power game over Mediterranean gas reserves
Competing claims have left Ankara isolated. Its efforts to stall projects threaten billions of dollars in investment. Europe’s top diplomat smiled for the camera as he took a helicopter flight over the disputed waters of the island of Cyprus at the end of June.
Strapped in next to the Cypriot defence minister, Josep Borrell was signalling his support for the island and its allies in a bitter dispute with Turkey over access to the region’s huge gas reserves.
Beneath them, the Turkish drill ship Yavuz was stalking a drilling block licensed to the French and Italian oil companies Total and Eni — a commercial agreement that Ankara views as invalid. Turkey’s pro-government press decried Mr Borrell’s chopper ride as an “ugly provocation”. Yet Ankara itself is also being accused of behaving in a provocative way.
Under the direction of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has adopted an increasingly assertive response to being excluded from regional efforts to exploit the area’s gas resources, which are subject to claims from at least eight countries ranging from Libya to Egypt and Israel. The interventions threaten billions of dollars of investment as countries seek to boost their energy security.
- “It has built into a big strategic issue,” says Dorothée Schmid, an expert on Turkey at the French Institute of International Relations, a Paris-based think-tank. Ankara, she says, is seen by many in Europe as “a very aggressive player that is waging war in several parts of the region and is behaving very aggressively against the EU”.
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