Ankara’s regional plan prompts Athens diplomacy

Ankara’s regional plan prompts Athens diplomacy

With regional tensions simmering, Athens and Nicosia see Ankara’s moves in the Eastern Mediterranean over the last six months as part of an organized plan developed by the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO).

The plan, which was drafted in cooperation with the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense and presented by TPAO to the Turkish government, foresees an intensification of the Turkish navy’s presence throughout the Eastern Mediterranean basin. It also stipulates continuous exploratory and drilling activities within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Cyprus, while also calling for pressure to be brought to bear on Qatar to withdraw state-owned Qatar Petroleum from the consortium with US company ExxonMobil, which is active in block 10 of Cyprus’ EEZ.

In response to Turkey’s moves, which include the strengthening of ties with the Tripoli-based government in Libya, Athens has embarked on a wide-reaching diplomatic offensive.

More specifically, technical talks begin in Rome on Monday on the possibility of demarcating an EEZ between Greece and Italy.

This will be followed by a trilateral meeting between Greece, Cyprus and Egypt in Cairo on January 4-5, with the support of France.

On January 7, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will hold crucial talks with US President Donald Trump at the White House, while on January 8 or 9 technical talks on EEZ demarcation are scheduled with Egypt.

The next East Med Gas Forum (Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Egypt, Italy, Palestinian Authority, US) will take place later in January.

Moreover, it is generally agreed that despite the doubtful economic feasibility of the East Med pipeline, the commitment to the project made by Greece, Cyprus, Israel, with the support of the US and gradually that of Egypt or France, suggests that it will move ahead due to political considerations.