An Israeli think-tank said Greece and Israel “have nothing to lose and much to gain” from an initiative to explore Turkey’s participation in the recently-founded East Med Gas Forum while the US says it wants the forum to be “more inclusive, specifically toward Ankara.”
The comments came on Wednesday in an article titled Athens and Jerusalem Have a Diplomatic Opportunity, which was published by Begin-Sadat Research Center (BESA), an independent institute affiliated with the political science department at Israeli Bar-Ilan University known for its close ties with the Israeli government.
The article outlined the risks involved if Turkey is excluded from the East Med Gas Forum, in which Greece, Israel, the Southern Cyprus Administration, Egypt, Italy, Jordan, and Palestine participate, with a special emphasis on the US’ approach.
The article stressed the US’ support for Turkey’s participation in the East Med Gas Forum, citing that Turkey’s exclusion “complicates matters.” The article recommended that Greece and Israel, which also lead the forum, start the necessary initiative to include Turkey.
“The more inclusive the conversation is, the better it will be from the perspective of the US,” the article quoted US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt as saying on Feb. 18 in a public discussion in Athens.
Hosted by Egypt, the Eastern Med Gas Forum was founded on Jan. 16, 2019 with the participation of the energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Egypt, Italy and Jordan.
Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also has rights to the resources in the area.
Athens and Greek Cypriots have opposed the move, threatening to arrest the ships’ crews and enlisting EU leaders to join their criticism.
Turkey, as a guarantor nation for the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC), currently carries out hydrocarbon exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean with its drilling vessel Yavuz along with two other seismic vessels, Oruc Reis and Barbaros Hayrettin Pasa.
Turkey's third drillship, Kanuni, arrived in Tasucu, Mersin, a coastal city in the Mediterranean region of the country on March 15.
The country plans to conduct five drills in the Eastern Mediterranean this year, according to Turkey's Annual Presidential Program for 2020.
On Nov. 27, Ankara and Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) signed two separate pacts, one that encompasses military cooperation and the other maritime boundaries of the two countries in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The maritime pact, effective from Dec. 8, asserted Turkey's rights in the Eastern Mediterranean in the face of unilateral drilling by the Greek Cypriot administration, clarifying that the TRNC also has rights to the resources in the area.
The Cyprus problem has remained unresolved for decades despite a series of efforts by the United Nations, while recent tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean have further complicated the problem.
The island has been divided into a Turkish Cypriot government in the north and Greek Cypriot administration in the south since a 1974 military coup aimed at Cyprus’ annexation by Greece.
Turkey’s military intervention as a guarantor power in 1974 had stopped the years-long persecution and violence against Turkish Cypriots by ultra-nationalist Greek Cypriots.
By Sibel Morrow