With the deployment of military helicopters, ships or combat planes … the recent military escalation between Greece and Turkey shows an escalation in the dispute for the controle of the strategic eastern Mediterranean region

Turkey’s Interest with Libya and its role there has intensified. Turkey seeks to defend its rights and to get a central place in foreign policy and security policy in the region.

Erdoğan seems to be playing a dangerous games, serving a harsh politic towards EU and it’s surrounding countries.

He demonstrates an expansionist discourse that completely questions Turkey’s current borders, quoting ‘Islam’s last army’.

The conflict between Turkey and Greece

Years-long tensions between Greece and Turkey are now escalating, with the fight over a sea territory near Greek island of Kastellorizo at just a mile and a half from the Turkish coast.

Both countries are arguing about who has rights to the areas of the Eastern Mediterranean as this region offers strategic gas reserves.

Turkey has sent in July sent a research ship to carry out a drilling survey near the Greek island of Kastellorizo, which infuriated the Greek’s government.

Under terms of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Greece claims territorial waters around its islands for exploration and exploitation of marine resources.

The Greek Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos declared that “Greece is ready for a military confrontation with Turkey” (Voice Of America). 

The conflict started much before this, with both countries claiming they have rights over the same areas, and also making deals with surrounding countries that infuriated both Greece and Turkey.

Deals with Egypt, Libya, Cyprus and Israel

The gas reserves that could supply Europe have been found in the waters of Cyprus, which has been divided for 46 years, with Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus only recognized as a republic by Ankara.

The Cypriot government, Greece, Israel, and Egypt agreed to work together for the best results in gas extraction and left out Turkey from that deal. At the end of last year, Turkey and Libya created an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that connected their two shores together.

The EEZ is a sea zone over which a sovereign state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind, as it is prescribed by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Egypt said it was illegal, and Greece said it was absurd as it failed to take account of the Greek island of Crete, midway between the two countries, pointed out by a BBC article.

Turning a world-famous Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque

At the end of July, the first prayers were using Hagia Sophia as a mosque, after 86 years of the establishment being a museum. Originally, Hagia Sophia was built 1,500 years ago as an Orthodox Christian cathedral, but it was turned to a mosque after the Ottoman conquest in 1453, making it a symbol of the Ottoman conquests and power.

Declaring Hagia Sophia to be a museum in 1934 was Kemal Atatürk’s attempt to make Turkey a more secular country.

“President Erdoğan is now taking one more step to dismantle Ataturk’s secular legacy and remold Turkey according to his vision. The Turkish leader – who presents himself as a modern-day conqueror – is making no apologies for the change. He says anyone who doesn’t like it – and plenty abroad don’t – is attacking Turkey’s sovereignty”, said Orla Guerin from BBC News Istanbul.

Hagia Sophia is a Unesco World Heritage Site, which means that many people think it belongs to the whole world and not only to a certain country but can be used by that country for touristic purposes. By turning Hagia Sophia into a mosque, not only secular Turkish citizens’ voices aren’t heard, but also that act brings up east-west binaries and division.

What is the role of Turkey in the Syrian region?

After Turkey canceled it’s deal with the EU and opened the borders with Greece for refugees, European leaders called Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a “shameful… unacceptable… blackmail… dictator.”

But why did Erdoğan violate the deal with the EU?

When Arab Spring in 2011 happened, Erdoğan thought that he could establish regional leadership, because many saw him as a man who managed to successfully join democracy and Islamism. However, after the mistakes of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi, the Middle East was divided into two alliances. On one side there was the revolutionary alliance of Muslim Brothers, Turkey, and Qatar, and on the other anti-revolutionary alliance of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

As time passed by, Turkey became the only country that supported revolutionary attempts of the Syrian opposition on the ground, in a battle against the Syrian regime (under the president Bashar al-Assad), Hezbollah, Russia, and Iran. There was only one province left under rebel control – Idlib province.

At the end of 2019, Assad’s army bombed the Idlib region, targeting densely-populated areas, hospitals, and schools, making almost one million people escape to Turkey. The battles in the region are still ongoing, with fear of the coronavirus spread in the camps for internally displaced Syrians.

Franco-Turkish relations are compromised

Erdoğan made a harsh criticism on NATO ally France, regarding support of rebel commander Khalifa Haftar in Libya.

Since the overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, there is chaos in Libya – last year Haftar made an attack on the capital Tripoli, with the support of Russia, Egypt, and UAE. On the other hand, Turkey is supporting the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) in their efforts to repel Haftar’s attempts to take over the capital.

France officially supports the internationally recognized government in Libya, but they have been accused of supporting the rebels led by Haftar, because of the French military assistance to fight Islamist militants.

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for EU sanctions against Turkey because of the tensions in the Aegean Sea. Previously, Macron accused Turkey of “a historic and criminal responsibility” in Libya. Turkey answered with accusations of France being the main actor responsible for the problems in Libya and even described Macron for having an “eclipse of mind.”

France announced that it will send two Rafale fighter jets and the naval frigate ‘Lafayette’ to the eastern Mediterranean, wanting to increase its military presence in the region. 

Turkey grants citizenship to Hamas operatives

Turkey is granting citizenship to senior operatives of a Palestinian Hamas terrorist cell, which will make it easier for them to organize attacks on Israeli citizens around the world, as published by the Telegraph. 

According to their source, seven of twelve senior operatives already got their papers, and the others are in the process of getting them. Hamas says its main goal is to liberate Palestinians from Israeli occupation and establish an Islamic state. They are described by the EU and the USA as a terrorist organization, but Turkey insists that they are a legitimate political movement that has been democratically elected in Gaza.

This is only the first steps toward escalation, Erdoğan is playing a long term game

Berlin is preparing a list of sanctions:

During the last two decades, Turkey has grown economically, resulting in, amongst others, a military buildup. Their international stand has changed over the last few years.

A visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, Marc Pierini believes that is because of Erdoğan’s international ambitions and political decline, a rising nationalist sentiment among a large segment of the population, Donald Trump’s unexpected support, and Vladimir Putin’s strategic maneuvering. 

Turkey wants to “fortify its position as a regional power and increase its geopolitical footprint in the Middle East and North Africa region”, said the director of the German Marshall Fund’s Ankara bureau Ozgur Unluhisarcikli.

By George