The engagement of international actors in the Eastern Mediterranean and provoking an armament race among regional countries increase the risk of instability in the region, experts at a security conference said Friday.
Speaking at the International Security Symposium, organized by the Turkish Police Academy, professor Mesut Hakkı Caşın, the head of the International Relations Department at İstinye University, said the U.S., Russia and China have increased their activities in the Eastern Mediterranean with their own presence and through regional alliances. He added that they are also provoking rifts to create an arms race.
“The U.S. has established intense cooperation with Greece and the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus while Russia has returned to the area with its involvement in the Syrian civil war. We also have China quietly carrying out its activities,” Caşın noted.
In June, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee legislation, sponsored by Democrat Bob Menendez, passed the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act, which intends to "update the U.S.' strategy in the Eastern Mediterranean to meet new challenges and opportunities." Regarding the act, Menendez said, "Israel, Greece and [Greek] Cyprus are key partners of the U.S."
"This alliance tries to corner Turkey at its shores. However, Turkey will defend its rights emanating from international laws,” Caşın said.
Speaking on the issue, Nurşin Ateşoğlu Güney, an academic from Bahçeşehir University, said 44 counties have a naval presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. She noted that the intervention of international actors fuel instability, not only in the region but also in the Middle East.
"The Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) are incapable of bringing stability in the region. Also, no regional countries have the competence to lead, which also protracts the uncertainty,” she said.
Güney added that the EU’s supportive stance toward Greek Cyprus by disregarding the rights of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also doesn’t contribute to the solution of the issue. Greek Cyprus unilaterally declared a total of 13 so-called parcels in the Eastern Mediterranean as its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and allowed international oil and drilling companies to operate in these areas, which are anticipated to hold rich hydrocarbon reserves.
Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration's unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the TRNC also has rights to the resources in the area.
The unilaterally declared EEZ of the Greek Cypriot administration violates part of Turkey's shelf, particularly in Blocks 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7.
Stressing that increasing destabilization, legal discord regarding energy areas and immigration are posing significant security threats in the region, Mehmet Şahin, an academic at Turkish Police Academy, said the recent process could be interpreted as the “Middle Easternization of the Eastern Mediterranean.
”We have more failed states, increasing military presence and new alliances in the region. The region has been engulfed by instability,” he said.