Tension mounted in the Eastern Mediterranean on Tuesday as the Turkish Navy practically encircled Cyprus with almost 20 vessels, including frigates and submarines.
Turkey’s move coincided with the imminent launch of operations by the Yavuz drillship within Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), while the Barbaros vessel is also conducting seismographic research in the island’s waters.
At the same time, there were no French or American military forces present in the region.
This absence of Western powers with economic interests in the region at a time when Turkey is blatantly violating Cyprus’s EEZ is seen to signify that countries like France and the United States clearly want to avoid a militarization of the crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean, which is something that Ankara obviously wants.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s behavior in the Eastern Mediterranean was at the epicenter of Tuesday's trilateral summit in Cairo between Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, and was roundly condemned.
The chasm between Ankara and Cairo couldn’t be wider at the present juncture, mainly due to the joint interests of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, Turkey’s involvement in the Libya conflict – to Egypt’s chagrin – as well as its support of forces opposed to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Due to this divide, the present circumstances could, under certain preconditions, lead Greece and Egypt to resolve several pending issues, not least the delineation of their respective EEZs – even though this is seen as far-fetched for the time being.
However, what is most pressing now for Athens and Nicosia is what stance the European Union will take at its upcoming Foreign Affairs Council and its Council Summit on October 17.
Apart from the wording of the European Council’s statement, Greece and Cyprus are attaching great significance to measures that will be announced against Turkey, if any, and what they will consist of.
The measures decided by the EU against Turkey with regard to its behavior against Cyprus in July have so far failed to bite and, given Turkey’s control of migrant flows into the continent, next week’s high-level meetings will be no walk in the park for all parties involved.