Greece and Cyprus have responded with calm and caution to the tension being stirred up in the Eastern Mediterranean by a Turkey that feels isolated. At the same time, they are taking advantage of regional cooperation schemes and international alliances that have cross-party and long-term support domestically, and are therefore likely to remain unchanged.
Athens and Nicosia are obviously cooperating on the issue, while in Greece the government and the main opposition are keeping the lines of communication open and keeping each other briefed, in what is a rare but welcome development.
On the international level, Nicosia submitted to the United Nations the coordinates delineating the boundaries of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and its continental shelf in the wake of Turkey’s decision to start drilling within that EEZ. As a member of the European Union, Cyprus has received the full support of the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, as well as of the head of European Parliament, Antonio Tajani.
Two of the strongest players in the region’s geopolitical scene, Egypt and Israel, have also adopted a clear position, issuing strongly worded statements that leave no room for misinterpretations.
Given the current state of relations with Turkey, the United States weighed the situation and hesitated initially, but eventually made a clear decision that will influence developments over the next weeks and months. The State Department said it was “deeply concerned by Turkey’s announced intentions to begin offshore drilling operations in an area claimed by the Republic of Cyprus as its exclusive economic zone,” while also describing these actions as “highly provocative” and calling on Turkey to halt operations.
Russia had a more reserved reaction, but one could hardly interpret Moscow’s position as staunchly supportive of Turkey’s actions.
Ahead of a difficult and dangerous period, Greece and Cyprus are taking the right steps. They have done the necessary groundwork, albeit with delays in some cases, for the immediate and multifaceted protection of the island, as well as the management of the “day after” that will unfold not only in Cyprus’ EEZ but in other areas too. The equation includes, apart from the deterrent of Greece’s military force, a maturely developed network of international cooperations and alliances.
If Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan persists in violating international law and maintains a confrontational policy, he will only succeed in further worsening the already difficult position he has put himself in over the past few years.