Turkey’s Adventures in the Eastern Mediterranean


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s erstwhile political soulmate, Ahmet Davutoglu, who served as Turkey’s foreign minister, was the country’s major ideologue defining its foreign policy. The basic paradigm of that policy was that their administration would move to a position of zero problems with the neighbors.

Perhaps, the main reason that the two leaders eventually fell out was that Erdogan committed all sorts of transgressions to antagonize all the neighbors, contrary to their earlier stated position. Davutoglu, angered, disassociated himself from the Erdogan clan to form his own political party called Future.

We do not know what the future holds for Davutoglu, but one thing is clear — Erdogan is expanding the circle of his enemies far beyond Turkey’s immediate neighborhood.

Turkey’s aggressive stance in the Eastern Mediterranean drilling for oil and gas in waters internationally recognized as belonging to Greece, drew criticism from many quarters, including Armenia.

Armenia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement which read, “We reiterate Armenia’s unequivocal support and solidarity with Greece and Cyprus and call on Turkey to de-escalate the situation, respect international law and cease all activities within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Greece and Cyprus.”

That statement drew a stern and sarcastic rebuke from Turkey’s Foreign Ministry.

Get the Mirror in your inbox:

Hami Aksoy, the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s spokesman, said, “The issue at hand is the Eastern Mediterranean, not Lake Sevan. Following its provocative statement on the Treaty of Sévres, Armenia’s expressing an opinion regarding the Eastern Mediterranean this time is a novel instance of impertinence and irresponsibility.

“Coming after the examples of the United Arab Emirates and France, the fact that Armenia, a country with no coastline to any sea, presumes itself worthy of speaking about the Eastern Mediterranean, unravels the dimensions of an insidious alliance that is being attempted to be forged against Turkey,” he continued.

Aksoy did not forget to include a reminder that “Armenians have not learned their lessons from history.”

The fact that Armenia does not have a coastline is thanks to Turkey. Also, reminding Armenians of the “lessons” of the past (while asserting that there was no Genocide!) has been a recurring threat from former Turkish leaders, dating back to Turgut Ozel and Tansu Çiller, up to Erdogan himself, all reminding Armenians that the unrepentant Turkish government is ready to repeat its murderous actions — or lessons.

The paranoia manifested in Aksoy’s statement demonstrates that under Erdogan, Turkey has gone from zero problems with neighbors to a mentality of siege, which has indeed led to a coalition of nations whose sovereignty has been trampled on or resources usurped by Turkey.

President Erdogan defies and then defines international law and its application. Whether right or wrong, he claims that a major country like Turkey deserves to benefit from the natural resources of the region.

“We will not back down in the face of sanctions or threats, “ he said recently. “We will never bow to banditry on our own continental shelf.”

Turkey has sent its scientific vessel Oruc Reis into the disputed waters off Cyprus to search for oil and gas, escorted by Turkish warships. On the other hand, Greece has sent its own military vessels to monitor the situation. Both countries are on a collision course.

French President Emmanuel Macron has said that he will increase France’s military presence over “unilateral” gas explorations by Turkey.

The “insidious” coalition is growing against Turkey, as countries like Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Israel join it.

Recently, Egypt signed an agreement with Greece delineating their maritime boundaries and exclusive economic zones for the rights for the exploration of hydrocarbon resources. President Erdogan has called that agreement “worthless paper,” while he had signed a similar deal with Libya’s Tripoli government, headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, which represents half of that country, the other half being controlled by Gen. Khalifa Haftar.

Cyprus and Greece are members of the European Union, whose foreign policy chief has tweeted that the EU is “in full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus, calling for immediate de-escalation by Turkey and recognizing dialogue.”

All that solidarity amounts only to a call for dialogue, because Turkey has learned to pit one EU country against another. For example, though France is not the only country critical of Turkey’s aggressive behavior, it also has not sent its warships to Eastern Mediterranean to warn Turkey of further escalation.

Meanwhile, the other powerful EU member, Germany is dragging its feet.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, has said that “the provocations” that are taking place in the region “can’t continue,” adding, “nor can the Turkish drilling.”

The statements clearly land Germany on Turkey’s side, since it also is the German government which has derailed the regime of economic sanctions against Turkey contemplated by the EU.

Similarly, Turkey and Greece are NATO members, while Greece is getting short shift there too, as a weaker party in the alliance.

Armenia should not be comforted that the Turkish government has too much on its plate. Turkey has attained such a military status that it can be engaged on many fronts — and even wage wars on many fronts.

Many analysts believed that Washington has licensed Turkey to play the role of the policemen in the Middle East. But Turkey seems to have misconstrued the role, because while policemen defend the parties under their control, Turkey has in fact targeted all the nations in the neighborhood.

The fact that Turkey is able to keep Russia at bay in the Caucasus and in Syria and Libya, all at the same time, indicates that it has been rendering valuable service to the US and consequently is being rewarded by America’s benign indifference to its aggressions against weaker countries in the region. Turkey could not have dared to defy another NATO member nation like France, without receiving a nod of approval from Washington.

In his rebuke to Armenia, Mr. Aksoy has not forgotten to remind Armenia that Turkey will continue giving all possible support to Azerbaijan.

Within the context of these political developments, if war breaks out between Armenia and Azerbaijan, with Turkey’s encouragement, Ankara’s target will be Moscow, not necessarily Yerevan. Turkey is building up its military forces in Nakhichevan, to provoke and challenge Russia, especially now that Russia has a distressed Belarus on its hands.

Turkey is threatening Greece and Cyprus. The way the EU or NATO is handling those conflicts gives a clear indication as to what the leadership of these two structures can or cannot do for the targets of aggression, when the bully is Turkey.

That leadership consists of the same politicians who advocated that Armenia will become a paradise by joining the EU or NATO.

There was even a pointed question in the BBC news program “HARDTalk” by Stephen Sackur last week posed to Prime Minister Pashinyan, on whether Armenia will continue to remain as a suffering Russian ally or seek salvation by looking to the EU and NATO.

That leadership in and outside of Armenia consists of the same politicians who advocated that Armenia will become a paradise by joining the EU or NATO.

Get the Mirror-Spectator Weekly in your inbox: