Category Archives: Aegean Crisis

Cypriot Natural Gas and the Eastern Mediterranean: Between Crisis and Cooperation

Natural resources have long been the cause of both development and conflict. Of course, in resource-abundant countries natural resources have, more often than not, caused conflict rather than development. However, the same cannot be said for third countries, often colonial powers, which exploited such resources abroad for their own development. This is one of the reasons why natural resources have been often referred to as a “curse”; an additional reason is the implications that the exist-ence of natural resources has for the management of the economy (e.g. high prices, low exports, etc.).

Cyprus has itself effectively acquired the status of a resource-abundant country when recently, on what was called “an historic” day, the President of the Republic Demetris Christofias announced that the Block 12 of the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) “contained an estimated 5 to 8 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas”. As “the second-largest hydrocarbon discovery in Europe in more than a decade”, the Cypriot natural gas paves the way for not only local but also regional development and cooperation. However, there is always the flip side of the coin and that is the international rivalry that may be triggered due to the alteration of the regional balance of power as a result of this and other developments. Below I briefly examine the features of the limited crisis surrounding the Cypriot natural gas and the Eastern Mediterranean more generally, as well as the features of a potential international cooperation at the re-gional and trans-regional level. The goal is to deter-mine whether bilateral disputes could be bridged, given the political and geopolitical realities at hand, to the end of avoiding a crisis escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean.

To read the complete version of this article download Political Reflection Quarterly Vol.3 No.2, 2012, pp.56-59, here

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Turkey: War or Blank Shots?

The recent developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, with Turkey threatening both Israel and Cyprus in an effort to prevent them from proceeding with the extraction of the Cypriot natural gas and beyond, the question that arises is whether Turkey can – or is willing – to carry out its threats.
Given all the things it has accomplished the last decade, including the recent victory of the Islamists against the Kemalist establishment, and knowing that there is indeed a gap of power in the wider Mediterranean region, Turkey, has overestimated itself and has adopted an unprecedentedly arrogant stance which leads to the overt promotion of its national interests. But this arrogance has put it in a very difficult position from which it will hardly come out unscathed. At this moment it is balancing between two realities: the threats that it already made on the one hand and the multiple fronts it has to face on the other. For example Turkey is facing the Kurdish problem at home and on its borders with Northern Iraq, Syria and Iran. Moreover, its relations with Syria are in serious decline because of the crisis that is taking place in the latter. Furthermore, Ankara seems to be losing the support of the Iranian government particularly since it has agreed to install NATO’s anti-missile radar in Turkish soil. To this troubling situation the crisis with Israel has also been added.
Consequently, it would be rational for Turkey not to further escalate the situation. However it has already threatened Cyprus and Israel. It has already used “strategic coercion.” If it does not work, according to this kind of tactic, Turkey should normally proceed in carrying out its threats in order to maintain its credibility as a regional superpower. Anything less than that would affect its image and at the same time it would mean that such a tactic would not be convincing in the future. Therefore Turkey appears to be in a big dilemma: to engage in a war which seems to be beyond its capabilities (mainly because it will weaken its domestic security), or to step back risking the image that it tried so hard to create? The most likely scenario is that Turkey will undertake its well known violations (of airspace and marine boarders), creating small-scale events which it can easily handle, in order to keep the risky equilibrium between what it wants and what it can accomplish. Another – unlikely but nonetheless not implausible – scenario is to see Turkey going beyond what is reasonable and possible, together with a full shift in Davutoglu’s doctrine of “zero-problems” and “soft-power”.