Dr. Rahmat Hajimineh, in an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, said that the power struggle in the Mediterranean geopolitics is an old conflict that goes back to the past years and the rivalry between Greece and Turkey, especially after the 1970s and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Its fragmentation has deepened the conflict, and it has recently taken on new dimensions with the announcement of the availability of energy resources and the competitive efforts of players to explore and extract these reserves; Thus, this issue is rooted in disputes over the history and maritime borders of Turkey and Greece, which have resurfaced today in the wake of competition for gas exploration.
He pointed to the formation of new axes of geopolitical confrontation in the Eastern Mediterranean with the increase of cooperation agreements between regional actors in the field of energy in recent years, such as the cooperation agreement between Turkey and the National Unity Government (NUG) in Libya, the ratification of the energy transfer project between Israel, Cyprus and Greece and the new agreement between Greece and Egypt added: “From the new dimensions of this confrontation, new actors are entering the crisis, such as France, which while supporting Greece, strongly warns against Turkey’s behavior, and the UAE, which is holding joint exercises with Greece.” It has complicated the old geopolitical conflict.
“The trend in the region shows that developments in the region are becoming more complex and tensions are escalating, and if this trend continues, the likelihood of conflicts in the region that have already occurred will increase,” said the international affairs analyst. Importantly, the competition in the Eastern Mediterranean and the presence of trans-regional actors show that the presence of these actors is not only due to the energy conflict in that area, but also other reasons, including their competition in the Middle East.
Referring to the geopolitical complexities in the region, Hajimineh explained: “France and the UAE have geopolitical rivalry with Turkey in the Middle East and in influencing Libya; in fact the behavior of these actors, who have sided with Athens in the tension between Turkey and Greece, is putting pressure on Ankara in a region that is considered a national interest for Turkey. With these pressures they try to first involve Turkey more in those areas to provide more space for them in other geopolitical areas with the absence or diminishing influence of Turkey influence, and then challenge Turkish coalition building in the eastern Mediterranean region and confront Turkey’s strategy for the future of energy in the Mediterranean by creating an opposition front.
The university professor described the agreement between Egypt and Greece a political agreement stemming from differences between Turkey and Egypt after al-Sisi came to power and Morsi was ousted) which shows the alliance of Turkey and Greece in the new era of geopolitical dispute over energy reserves.
He described the tense outlook for the Eastern Mediterranean as a concern for trans-regional actors, especially the European Union. “If these tensions persist, they could take on a trans-regional nature, especially since Turkey and Greece are members of NATO, and the escalation of tensions between them will cause member states to clarify their positions on the issue. Germany has so far tried to play a mediating role so that the consequences of a possible conflict do not worsen the security situation around the EU. France, meanwhile, has sided with Greece in trying to control the situation by putting pressure on Turkey.
Reasons for America’s Passive Stance in Eastern Mediterranean
Referring to Washington’s weak role and passive policy in this area, he attributed it to the complexity and sensitivity of the tension in the Eastern Mediterranean region, and explained the reasons: “The insignificance or low level of the Trump administration’s strategic interests in this region has caused that its strategic importance stand lower than that of the European Union. Moreover, given Turkey’s and Greece’s membership in NATO, Washington does not want to deepen the rift with Turkey in the Middle East geopolitical rivalry, especially over the Syrian Kurds, by supporting Greece and pushing Turkey further towards Russia.
Explaining the third reason for the US passive policy in the region, Hajimineh added: “The US approach shows the reduction of US influence among its allies due to the unilateral policies pursued by the Trump administration and increasing distrust of the US among allies.” This has led to the role of other NATO players, such as Germany, in the guise of a mediator and France in the guise of a balancer in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Asked whether Turkey could change the atmosphere against its rivals in the region, the professor of international relations pointed to the shift in Turkish foreign policy and its harsh nature inside and its offensive behavior abroad, saying what we have witnessed in Turkey’s Middle East policy towards Syria and Iraq can now be seen in the Mediterranean basin in the operation of reconnaissance ships supported by warships.
Hajimineh continued: “It seems that from the point of view of the ruling party of Turkey, especially Erdogan, an aggressive policy based on realism can better serve the interests of this country in the periphery such as the Middle East and the Mediterranean, although distrust created in the Syrian crisis between Turkey and NATO, the fall of the Russian Sukhoi, as well as the failed coup in Turkey, have not been ineffective in aggravating Ankara’s approach: An approach that, instead of engaging others, will lead to more mistrust, divergence and backlash, and will increase Turkey’s security spending.
Referring to the prospect of energy transit from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe, Dr. Hajimineh said: “The need for collective action for such a purpose is undeniable because the use of pipelines for sustainable and cost-effective energy transfer requires crossing the territories of the regional states: A vision that portrays the interests of actors through cooperation and collective action, and can act as a deterrent to escalating tensions.
EU Concern over Growing Burden of E. Mediterranean Crisis on ME Crisis
He added: “One of the concerns about this region, especially in Europe, is the increase of the burden of this crisis on the security crisis in the Middle East, which can have serious negative consequences due to the geographical proximity of Europe.” On the other hand, the consideration of this issue is based on the weakening of NATO, whose goal and mission is against foreign actors such as Russia. Changes in the geopolitics of power itself will follow at the trans-regional level.
Hajimineh said the most important consequences of the current tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean are the escalation of tensions between Turkey and Greece, the start of a new round of arms race in the region, the deepening of geopolitical fault lines, further weakening of Turkey’s EU membership process, escalation of Turkey’s divergence from NATO and getting closer to Russia and assuming stronger roles of European actors such as Germany and France.