After signing defence cooperation agreements with France and the US in 2021, a spirit of euphoria started to reign in Greece. Especially the one concluded with the US should not be considered a victory, contrary to its reflections in Athens. But with the beginning of the new year, Athens started to receive bad news. Alarm bells are now ringing in place of screams of triumph.
EastMed Project is on its deathbed
The first bad news to Athens was the US’s withdrawing her support to EastMed, which is considered one of the most ambitious energy projects of our times. During the last couple of years, the US became BFFs with Greece abandoning her traditional equidistance policy vis-a-vis Turkey and Greece. EastMed Project envisaged transferring natural gas discovered by Israel and Greek Cypriot administration in the eastern Mediterranean to Europe through pipelines under the sea. According to Greek media, Washington has informed Athens, Nicosia and Jerusalem by virtue of a “non-paper” that the US would not support the EastMed Project anymore. No one has seen the non-paper yet. A press statement issued by the US Embassy in Athens stated that the US remained committed to regional cooperation as well as to clean energy and decided to shift her focus to electricity interconnections that can support both gas and renewable energy sources.
When the real intention is revealed
The EastMed was three times more costly than similar projects. That is why it was never considered a feasible project by finance and energy circles. The US and the EU welcomed the Project when it was first launched on the grounds that EastMed would serve as an alternative route to Russian gas. But soon, it was revealed that the real purpose of Greece was to exclude Turkey from the eastern Mediterranean region and had nothing to the with the Russian gas. Since the pipelines under the sea were supposed to cross over the disputed continental shelve areas with Turkey. In this vein, Greece tried to seek implicit legitimacy from the international community for her claims. By her latest move, came as a bad news to Greece, the US took away an important tool from the hands of Greece.
The second bad news comes from the petroleum companies
A few days after the EastMed shock, the French company Total and the American company Exxon which were conducting seismic research at the South and West of Kyrene, declared that they had suspended their activities indefinitely. Both companies had obtained their research licences in 2019 when the previous Tsipras government was in power. According to the existing contract, the two companies should have completed their research activities by 2022. It is believed that the objection of the US to the EastMed played an important role in the decision of the two petroleum companies.
Rozakis: Man of integrity
Another problematic statement for the Mitsotakis government came from Christos Rozakis, a former deputy foreign minister. Rozakis, while speaking to a radio channel, said that Greece abandoned her claims for 12 miles territorial water and accepted 10 miles. As expected, there was a harsh reaction to the statement of Rozakis, who was once part of the Greek delegation attending the exploratory talks. The Greek government did not fail to deny his remarks immediately. Rozakis is an internationally renowned lawyer. During his term at the European Court of Human Rights, he was the judge known to attend the most rulings against his own country. He is never afraid of saying what he believes. He was expelled from the Supreme Science Academy of Greece when he told Kastelleriso island is closer to Turkey than Greece at an interview on a Greek TV channel.
The exploratory talks at which the Agean disputes between Turkey and Greece are dealt with are conducted in top secrecy. With a few exceptions, the Greek side, till now, has also observed this principle. Therefore, it is not possible to understand the reaction of the Greek media to the remarks of Rozakis. What can be more natural than discussing alternatives for the width of territorial waters in the search for compromise at the exploratory talks lasting for 20 years?
What is worth noting in the remarks of Rozakis is the acknowledgement that issues other than the continental shelve are also discussed at the exploratory talks.
The timing of the rapprochement with Israel
The decision of the US to abandon EastMed creates a golden opportunity for Turkey to normalise her relations with Israel. In Turkish, there is a saying,” In each evil phenomenon, there is something holy hidden.” It seems that considerable ground has been covered by telephone diplomacy in the rapprochement process, which was initiated after the intervention of President Erdoğan in the case of two Israeli citizens who were detained with charges of taking photographs at the Çamlıca TV tower in İstanbul. It is easy to destroy the relations among the states, but to repair them is difficult and takes time. This time, Israel pretends to be reluctant. While coming closer to Turkey, on every occasion, the Israeli officials emphasise that they do not want to harm their friendly relations with Greece and Greek Cypriots.
The greek policy vis-a-a Turkey staged by Dendias and Mitsotakis started to collapse. Turkey should accelerate her efforts to overcome the “meaningful solitude” at a time when the cards on the table are being shuffled. Let’s not get stuck in old obsessions.