The gradual discovery of largely under-explored natural gas deposits under the Eastern Mediterranean in the last decade has re-escalated tensions between Turkey and the European Union over alleged illegal maritime drilling in the region. Turkey reiterated its dissatisfaction with its exclusion from regional efforts to exploit the region’s gas resources, which are the subject to claims by several countries such as Cyprus, Egypt and Israel.
On one hand, according to the Turkish authorities, the decision to send Turkish drilling ships to the disputed waters is justified by the fact that Greek Cypriots are carrying out unilateral gas explorations without taking into account the rights of Turkish Cypriots. On the other hand, Cyprus (backed by the EU) claims that its drilling for hydrocarbons in the waters around the island is based on international law. Whereas Egypt’s primary objective of exploiting gas resources is to provide the fuel necessary for it’s economic growth and reducing the region’s dependence on Russia.
This new resurgence of Mediterranean conflict puts the EU in a delicate situation as Turkey’s essential role as a buffer against the flow of migrants into Europe has made the use of trade sanctions for its gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean very risky. But given that billions are at stake here, the possibility of conflict is high. Thus, the EU may need to damage some relationships to accommodate equal distribution of resources.