A Mediterranean League?
This network of economic and cartographic symbiosis applies equally, as we have seen, to the Republic of Cyprus, settled by Mycenean Greeks in the 2nd millennium B.C. and which has remained demographically Greek to this day. As the Cyprus Mail reports, Commerce Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis, speaking at a signing ceremony for transfer agreements pertaining to drilling rights, said the deal brings “a new era of strategic partnership between Cyprus and Israel,” with both economic and political ramifications, opening up possibilities of “significant synergies.”
Similarly, the highly respected Washington D.C.-based research institute The Jamestown Foundation has noted the important economic basis that “these gas projects and potential exports to Europe” would establish. It reports that “Israel, Cyprus and Greece have been holding intensive talks in recent months at the prime ministers’, ministerial, and chiefs-of-staff levels, about offshore gas projects and regional security.” New gas pipelines and electricity cables linking the three countries, observes the Public Service Europe (PS) website, would be an energy-security plus for Europe. A collaborative energy venture would clearly yield significant dividends for the principal actors involved.
Not surprisingly there is strong opposition to this undertaking from the Islamic world in general and, more specifically, from the fundamentalist bloc in Turkey, an enemy which the three invested countries have in common. Greece, of course, has not forgotten the 400-year history of Ottoman occupation and is acutely aware of a renewed menace in the Aegean from the Islamic colossus to its immediate East, which has begun voicing claims to the tiny Greek island of Kastelorizo barely a mile off its southern coast. As Daniel Pipes writes, “That Athens controls this wisp of land implies it could (but does not yet) claim an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Mediterranean Sea that reduces the Turkish EEZ to a fraction of what it would be were the island under Ankara's control.” Indeed, “Were Athens to claim its full EEZ, Kastelorizo’s presence would make its EEZ contiguous with the EEZ of Cyprus.” Scoping has revealed enormous reserves off Crete and Kastelorizo, prompting Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to deploy a fleet of warships into the area and to engineer other provocations.
Cyprus, in turn, is constantly looking over its shoulder to the northeast, where the Republic of Northern Cyprus, a Turkish conquest without international recognition, remains a perpetual threat. Substantial Turkish forces are stationed there and may conceivably be used to enforce a Northern claim to the Cypriot EEZ. And Israel for its part has seen its once friendly relations with Turkey disintegrate into a condition of overt hostility, with Erdogan responsible for dispatching a ship staffed with provocateurs to break the legal Israeli naval blockade of the terrorist enclave in Gaza and afterwards prosecuting Israeli officers in absentia, calling Zionism (along with “Islamophobia”) a “crime against humanity,” and threatening to send the Turkish navy into the eastern Mediterranean to prevent Israel from exploiting the gas fields. (The Tamar field, it should be noted, is now on line, supplying Israel’s energy needs.)
Cypriot energy analyst and president of the “one Cyprus” movement George Stavri, writing in the Research Institute for European and American Studies (RIEAS), has examined “how this New Energy Triangle (NET)…will shape and inevitably affect the new balance of power in this crucial part of the world.” Stavri, who is no friend to Israel, would like to see Turkey as a partner in the alliance rather than “odd man out of the NET,” since by his lights, “the NET is not a tool of foreign policy to be cast on Turkey to either entrap it or to isolate it.” Stavri fears that such a policy “will unfortunately boomerang on the two weaker links of the chain, Greece and Cyprus.” Turkey is patently of the same mind; Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, ignoring the problematic status of Northern Cyprus as conquered territory and the fact that Turkey does not recognize the International Law of the Sea, has stated that the “only way to exploit the natural resources flows is through an agreement under the auspices of the U.N. secretary-general and by getting the consent of the Turkish Cypriot side.”
But Turkish participation would be plainly counterproductive, no less than Turkish admission into the EU would have been. There should be no hesitation in seeing Turkey under Erdogan’s ruling AKP as an Islamic imperialist regime seeking regional hegemony. Considering their shared prospects and common enemy, a feasible solution to this perilous state of affairs seems almost to suggest itself, namely, a formal Mediterranean association, based on mutual political, economic, and military concerns, between Israel, Cyprus and Greece. Full disclosure: the idea was first put forward as a “Mediterranean confederation” by a well-connected Coptic expatriate and personal acquaintance -- who wishes to remain anonymous -- and submitted to the Israeli government several years ago. “Confederation” may not be the right word as it implies political unification, but a robust alignment of national interests could be achieved through a covenant or league with military backing.