Turkey sent out its first drilling vessel, Fatih, to the Eastern Mediterranean just two years ago. Even though only two years have passed since then, much has been gained in little time.
One gain was conveying the message to Greece and its partners – which completely ignore Turkey's sovereignty rights in the Mediterranean – that the country with the longest coastal border in the Mediterranean could not be ignored. Although Greece has a hard time accepting it, the message has been clearly sent.
The second was to tell the world that Turkey's exclusion from energy sharing in the Eastern Mediterranean was unfair. Indeed, six European Union member states, including Germany, Italy and Spain, vetoed Greece’s call for sanctions on Turkey in the meeting with the European ministers of foreign affairs last week, showing that the policy of ignoring Turkey has gone unrewarded in the international arena as well.
Another gain is the increasing importance attached to the call for a common solution, which Turkey often underlines. This is why President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly stated to Greece and other countries that this issue can only be resolved at the negotiating table and that a negotiation process involving Turkey should be initiated immediately.
Turkey has refrained from drilling in the Mediterranean for some time on the request of Germany to reduce tension. However, the day after Greece took advantage of this and signed a maritime jurisdiction treaty with Egypt, Turkey issued a new navigational telex (Navtex) and deployed the seismic exploration vessel Oruç Reis to conduct seismic surveys. Greece's insistence on ignoring Turkey has created a deadlock. Although Greece is currently dreaming of a share of the Eastern Mediterranean that excludes Turkey, with direct support from France and indirect support from the U.S., it has to accept that the reality on the ground has to be reflected at the table.
Should the two neighboring countries experience military tension, Turkey will come out on top with its more advanced army, defense forces and troop strength. In fact, the tension between the two NATO-member states could pull other NATO members into the disagreement. Both scenarios would mean losses for all parties.
However, if Greece thinks it can corner Turkey through the location of the island of Kastellorizo (Megisti-Meis), which is 520 kilometers (323 miles) from the Greek mainland and 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from Turkey, it is sorely mistaken. Turkey will not back down from its determination to maintain its rights in the Eastern Mediterranean. If it does, it will cause irreversible damage to Erdoğan's chances in elections in the short term and to Turkey's sovereign rights in the long term.