The immediate aim of Ankara’s illegal actions was to break the continuity between the exclusive economic zones of Greece and Cyprus. This was confirmed by the fact that, contrary to what officials in Athens appeared to believe, Turkey’s seismic research vessel the Oruc Reis actually laid its cables on the Greek continental shelf.
Reactions to Turkey’s behavior have been rather mild. Most essentially, the maritime zone around Kastellorizo, Strongyli and Rhodes is now described by our partners as a “disputed area.”
The history of Greek-Turkish tensions in the Aegean over the past 40 years has consolidated the belief that any crisis is succeeded by dialogue between Athens and Ankara. The primary concern has been managing public perceptions so as to convince people that Greece has secured an advantage. But this was not necessarily the case.
Driven by this concept, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has proposed the start of negotiations between the two sides with the exclusive objective of reaching continental shelf and EEZ delineations; and, in case of deadlock, a recourse to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. However, Ankara will never accept Mitsotakis’ proposal. Instead, Turkey wants to put all the purported disputes with Greece to international arbitration.
It comes as no surprise then that, according to reports in the Turkish media, Erdogan wants to propose to German Chancellor Angela Merkel a summit of Eastern Mediterranean states to reach an agreement for the “fair distribution of the region’s energy resources.”
The proposal – if made and accepted – will upgrade Merkel’s role, and that of the EU in general, in the region. At the same time, the participation of states that are not members of the bloc will be to the benefit of Turkey, which will be able to ease any EU pressure in support of Greece and Cyprus. Meanwhile, Turkey will continue to seek a consolidation of its position in the Aegean and Cyprus’ EEZ.