Tension in Eastern Mediterranean in 5 questions

Provoked by actors from outside the region such as France, Greece is taking steps to ramp up tension instead of establishing direct dialogue with Ankara.

Below Anadolu Agency lays out the reasons behind the rising tension in the Eastern Mediterranean as well as the attitudes of Greece and France in the region.

1. How did the tension in the Eastern Mediterranean flare up? The tension in the Eastern Mediterranean was first ignited when the Greek Cypriots made international agreements to explore energy resources around the island, ignoring the legitimate rights of the Turkish side in the island’s north. Western companies, with the support of their governments, embarked on a wide range of natural gas exploration and drilling in the region with support from the Greek side. For years Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) have been warning the parties that the natural resources around the island should be offered to the benefit of all people, and a fair and lasting solution is needed. But they turned a deaf ear to Turkey’s warnings. As more hydrocarbon fields were explored in the Eastern Mediterranean, the countries in the region moved to make Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) agreements. Turkey and TRNC kept warning Greek Cypriots as they signed so-called EEZ agreements with Egypt in 2003, Lebanon in 2007, and Israel in 2010. The Greek Cypriot administration continued to work on hydrocarbon fields together with Western companies in the areas where Turkey and TRNC have legitimate rights. Egypt, Greece, the Greek Cypriot administration, and Israel tried to eliminate other actors in the region, such as Turkey, Libya, and Lebanon, through the East Med Gas Forum in Cairo. As a goodwill initiative, Turkey and TRNC proposed through the UN to establish a joint committee on hydrocarbon resources. However, Athens and the Greek Cypriot administration, which received the support of the European Union, showed that they were not open to cooperation.

2. Why is Greece insisting on using the Seville map? The Seville map is used by Greece and the Greek Cypriots to isolate Turkey by trying to confine it to its Mediterranean coast. The map, prepared by Professor Juan Luis Suarez de Vivero of the University of Seville in southern Spain, suggests that the boundaries that Greece claims in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas as its continental shelf and the EEZ declared by the Greek Cypriots in 2004 indicates the official borders of the EU. This map claims that Greek continental shelf starts from the island of Meis and goes south to the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, which gives Turkey no territory outside of the Gulf of Antalya, southern Turkey. Turkey rejects these claims, calling them irrational and inconsistent with international law. Ankara rejects this claim of a 40,000-square-kilometer continental shelf projected from a 10-square-km island lying just 2 km from the Turkish shore, while being 580 km from the Greek mainland.