- Natural Gas Sets the Stage for an Armed Conflict in the East Mediterranean
The efforts of individual countries to access the gas fields in the south-eastern part of the Mediterranean make the area very vulnerable to new conflicts and war and can also lead to a dispute within NATO and affect Europe’s energy security, putting the EASTMED pipeline in question. The war for natural resources is looming large.
The first problem is the relationship between Cyprus and Turkey. Ankara, the only capital which recognizes North Cyprus, says that all activities related to the extraction of gas in the Cypriot area are an encroachment on the interests of North Cyprus. While Turkey does not recognize agreements between Cyprus and other countries on the issue of economic exclusive zone (EEZ) or licenses for gas exploration in Cypriot territorial waters, Nicosia holds the opposite opinion. Ankara, through the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) puts forward claims that it is entitled to look for gas and oil in Cypriot waters and has the right to defend its interests there. Cyprus issued a number of concessions to various mining companies on more than half of the blocks (i.e. parts of the economic exclusive zone on which companies could explore gas or oil) located within the Cypriot EZZ. President Erdoğan warned Cyprus and international gas exploration companies that the violation of Turkish interests would have bad consequences.1)In the middle of February 2018 the warning was made good and so the Saipem 1200 mining vessel operating for Italian company – Eni was blocked by Turkish ships. Italy responded by sending a military ship to the area.2)This shows how explosive the situation is now that two NATO member states want to pursue economic goals without backing them with diplomacy.