Tensions between Greece and Turkey are once again on the rise. CNBC reports that Turkish F-16 jets prevented Greek planes from entering the area where Turkey has recently been engaging in natural gas drilling operations. Sanctions from the European Union on Turkey appear to be on the way as a result.
This past August, a new venture was launched by Turkey which included drilling off the shore of the Greek island of Kastellorizo, according to Bloomberg. As TIME reports, both Greece and Turkey claim to possess the rights to this part of the Mediterranean. Greece holds that, in accordance with the United Nations Law of the Sea, each island is entitled to its own share of the continental shelf and the exclusive drilling rights that come with it. However, Turkey is not party to this convention and, as such, asserts that a state’s continental shelf should be measured from the mainland.
Turkey faced backlash from the EU in July 2019 following a similar drilling incident off the coast of Cyprus, The New York Times reports. Around $164 million dollars in aid from the EU was held from Turkey and contact between high ranking officials ended, shelving discussions on an aviation agreement between the bloc and Turkey.
Turkey’s long and contentious history with Cyprus dates back to Turkey’s invasion of the island in the 1970s and further meddling in the next decade that stressed Turkey’s relationship with Greece. Turkey and Greece barely avoided war over two uninhabited islands in 1996, according to TIME.
Conflict between the two states has ramifications that extend beyond the Mediterranean. Both Greece and Turkey are members of NATO and serve important roles in aiding the region’s refugee crisis. Additionally, Turkey is still a formal candidate for admittance into the EU, although this may be at risk according to a CNBC report.
The EU has repeatedly warned Turkey against continuing its natural gas exploration mission, threatening sanctions if they refuse or fail to come to an agreement with Greece, reports Al Jazeera. With an EU summit coming approaching at the end of the month, sanctions against Turkey are likely to be on agenda according to a top EU official, reports CNBC. Josep Borrell, EU Minister of Foreign Affairs, said at a news conference that possible sanctions range from monetary sanctions, affecting areas “where the Turkish economy is related to the European economy,” according to CNBC to other sanctions could include the removal of Turkey as a candidate for EU membership.
Al Jazeera reports that Greece and Turkey are set to hold technical talks addressing de-escalation of military tensions in the region. The meeting will likely not solve the problem, but it is a positive step in the right direction, despite a CNBC report of a senior diplomat admitting that “nothing will be decided before the September European Council” set to happen on September 24.
Bloomberg reports Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying that “Turkey will not bow to the language of threats, intimidation and blackmail, especially in the eastern Mediterranean, and will continue to defend its rights under international law and bilateral agreements”.
Conflict does not seem unavoidable though. Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs said at a press conference that Turkey favors “a joint solution that involves sitting around the table to negotiate with all sides in the eastern Mediterranean, for everyone to benefit from the eastern Mediterranean resources in a just manner or for the sharing [of resources] fairly,” according to Al Jazeera.