The developments concerning Eastern Mediterranean gas are becoming more complicated and negative for Turkey. There is a clear distancing policy from international powers. Yesterday, the EU decided unanimously to work on a bill to freeze funding for Turkey next year over drilling for gas and oil off the coast of Cyprus and to oversee the air transport agreement.
This decision will be discussed in Brussels on Monday when the foreign ministers of the EU meet. Turkey's activities on the eastern part of the Mediterranean are being labeled as illegal and there is a strong opposition toward Ankara's engagement in those waters.
Almost all of the regional powers, the EU and U.S. are there but Turkey is pressured to stay out. This unbiased picture can't be accepted. Moreover, the region has the potential to be the scene of a struggle between big powers. For example, a Russian S-200 missile probably fired by Syria was a response to an Israeli airstrike. In a stroke of luck nobody was hurt, but it was a reminder of a dangerous possibility that a frozen conflict might be re-awakened and a war can break out over those waters if there is no reconciliation or stepping back. France's Total, Italy's Eni, the U.S.' Exxon Mobil and others are drilling with licenses they purchased from the Greek Cypriots. All the while, Greek Cyprus is trying to leave out Turkey and the struggle begins here. It is a political struggle. Ankara says that Greek Cypriots have no rights to exploit energy without a fair share with Turkish Cyprus. Another claim Turkey makes is that it is clearly within its own rights to operate within its continental shelf.
Greek Cyprus has tried to gain the approval of the Turkish side by saying that their share will be safeguarded by a national investment fund for the benefit of all Cypriots. However, looking at the disputes on the island this claim does not sound too credible.
It is not only about Cyprus with all the big actors already drilling.
In short it is a negotiation table where the EU, the U.S., Egypt and Israel are trying to keep Ankara away from. Israel and Egypt have already struck agreements with Greek Cyprus, which has understandably rung alarm bells for Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's statement, saying, "We will not allow moves aimed at usurping the Eastern Mediterranean's natural resources to the exclusion of our country and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus [TRNC] … We will not cede ground to the bandits in the sea," should be understood in this context.
The shores of Cyprus are a new playground for big power struggles. Ankara is resisting and should resist Greek Cyprus, Israel and Egypt's plans to be the only operators in the region. It is not an easy struggle but we should know that the potential in these waters is huge.