The recent history of Greece and Turkey might be described as difficult. The two neighbours have disagreed over issues including migration, religion and the future of Cyprus. Now the prospect of natural gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean has the NATO neighbours in a tense standoff.
It’s an issue that seven southern European nations, including Greece, are discussing today in a summit convened by the French President, Emmanuel Macron.
The crisis is set to dominate today’s MED7 summit.
The navies of Turkey and Greece are both at sea and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis are blaming each other for the worsening relations.
On August 10, Ankara sent a research Vessel to the Eastern Mediterranean to explore an area, part of which belongs to Greece, according to Athens. Turkey disagrees claiming oil exploitation rights within that part of the continental shelf.
“We’ve seen this crisis for more than 10 years and now we are seeing that both countries have been defending their claims,” explains political analyst Hamdi Firay Buyuk. “The Turkish agreement with Libya for sharing the East Mediterranean raised tensions, later Greece’s agreement with Egypt, so we’re seeing both countries pushing to get the maximum”.
Carrot and stick
The European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council has been discussing what should be the appropriate European response. And sanctions are on the table.
“Possible EU sanctions against Turkey will undoubtedly send a strong message to the Turkish side,” says Panagiotis Tsakonas, a professor of international relations at the University of Athens. “However, I believe that they are only part of a more comprehensive strategy that the EU must develop towards Turkey. This strategy should be a kind of carrot and stick policy, a combination of the German approach of engagement or commitment to Turkey with the French approach of curbing Turkish aggression”.
But Greek and Turkish warships on patrol are not the cause of tensions.
Migration, the Libyan crisis and relations with countries on the Mediterranean’s southern shore are also on the menu. Discussions at the summit are expected to be robust.