Albert Goldson, Executive Director of the think-tank Cerulean Council, provides his risk assessment of the Turkish perspective with respect to the heightened tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean and exacerbated by the recent terrorist killings in Paris in the article entitled, Tensions Run High Between France and Turkey, published 1 November 2020 in The Millennial Source.
Supplemental information supporting this perspective is as follows:
For several years Erdogan has sought to be the leading voice in the Muslim world. He has leveraged Turkey’s advantages:
• Large population of 82 million (2nd only to Germany in Europe).
• Shared border with Europe.
• NATO member with the 2nd largest army in the organization.
• One of the few officially secular and democratic Muslim countries even though in present-day practice Turkey is less secular and politically more illiberal.
• Multi-generation of European-born citizens of Turkish origin.
Inflammatory Verbal Jousting
Erdogan’s brusque rebuke with respect to Macron’s insensitive comment on equating Islam with terrorism is to underscore not only Macron rather the Eu leadership’s continued ignorance and racism on Muslims and reluctance to engage in a genuine understanding of the Muslim world.
The alleged racism against Muslims by the French government may have merit. In response to riots in the banlieues several years ago, the French government has institutionalized racism by codifying many earlier state of emergency decrees which are crafted in such a way in that it targets the Muslim communities.
For this reason Erdogan has been able to take the leadership role in the Muslim world by creating a united front. On the other hand Eu countries have rallied around and supported France’s decisions to target the Muslim community to root out potential terrorists. This has created a dangerous political “Mexican standoff” between a Christian Europe and the Muslim world.
The Eu block support on the matter may be more durable than the world Muslim community because the Eu is an institutionalized and integrated geopolitical block.
The Muslim world is politically and geographically diverse with numerous groups within the Muslim community: Turkish, Iran (Persian), Arab (Middle East and North Africa), south and southeast Asian countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia each of whom have distinct historical economic and political relationships with Eu countries.
Furthermore there are “hard” political alliances and rivalries in the Middle East. For example: Turkey and Saudi Arabia have been at loggerheads for years because of Erdogan’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a threat to Saudi Arabia) and support of Qatar.
Eastern Mediterranean Hydrocarbons
A confluence of events is contributing to the intensifying geopolitical tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean between Turkey and Greece in their pursuit for energy self-sufficiency and dominance.
The mainstream media is supporting western governments’ contention portraying Turkey as the aggressor in their attempt at an energy power grab through naval intimidation.
Although Turkey has the largest economy in the region and the second largest military in NATO, they have been deliberately excluded from critical agreements which would make them equal partners with respect to dispute resolutions and access to resources in the region.
The legal discriminatory agreements that are politically isolating Turkey are the following:
• The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea which Turkey is not a signatory. This body is called upon to resolve maritime disputes.
• The newly formed EastMed Gas Forum, referred to as the Opec of Mediterranean gas, includes as members Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Greece, Cyprus and Italy, an oddball membership all of whom have compatible economic interests in gas exploration in this region, not necessarily compatible political interests amongst themselves.
• Turkey is a NATO member, the second largest, and a European country, it is not an EU member and for this reason cannot benefit from Eu agreements.
Interestingly the Turkish energy exploratory vessel is exploring in areas where no gas reserves have been discovered. However because Turkey does not have rights to extract gas reserves, this particular type of vessel’s presence has been challenged by Greek military vessels.
For this reason any discussions with respect to disputed maritime zones is hotly adversarial rather than diplomatic member-to-member conversations towards a mutually satisfying resolution.
Copyright 2020 Cerulean Council
The Cerulean Council is a NYC-based think-tank that provides prescient, beyond-the-horizon, contrarian perspectives and risk assessments on geopolitical dynamics and global urban security.