Tom Ellis TOM ELLIS

Turkey could be part of East Med cooperation if it changed its behavior

COMMENT

TAGS: Turkey, US, Energy, Diplomacy

In spite of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s erratic behavior and revisionist posturing, the Americans – among others – argue that the West should not allow Turkey to be “lost.” In this context, they would like to see the country become part of energy cooperation plans that are under way in the Eastern Mediterranean.

This is a goal that is not only unopposed by Greece and Cyprus, but would even be welcomed as a positive development – under certain conditions. These are none other than a commitment from Turkey to respect international law and the principle of good-neighborly relations.

The Eastern Mediterranean energy landscape is actually one of the issues that is being examined at the Southeast Europe & East Med conference organized by Kathimerini and the Delphi Economic Forum in Washington yesterday and today.

The snag in achieving this goal is Turkey’s behavior, which is increasingly aggressive and causing tension with almost all of its neighbors. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman style is adding fuel to an already volatile landscape. Turkey appears to feel “constrained” by its existing borders, which is why Erdogan keeps insisting on the need to review the Treaty of Lausanne, a development that would not only impact Greece, but the region as a whole.

All together, this is a recipe for regional destabilization that is causing justified concern among many countries and is fraught with dangers.

Such concerns were also expressed at another interesting conference last week, organized by the Israel-Hellenic Forum in Jerusalem.

Unsurprisingly, almost all of Turkey’s neighbors have expressed annoyance at its behavior in the past few months and frustration at its leader for his expansionist rhetoric.

Countries do not have the luxury of choosing their neighbors. And given the geography, as well as geopolitical and practical issues, instead of being a threat or at the very least a destabilizing factor, Turkey could be a part of the framework of cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean. Unfortunately, it is harming its prospects in this direction as a result of its attitude, which is aggressive and arrogant.

If Turkey changes, if it manages to accept certain realities, if it acknowledges the law of the seas and international treaties, if it starts behaving like a normal state toward Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Syria, Israel and others, then its neighbors would be ready to work with it in a regional development that would be beneficial to all.

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