Greece must craft Turkey policy around Cyprus, Aegean as it inches towards elections - analyst

Greece’s current Turkey policy must take into consideration the unobstructed completion of Cyprus’s energy program and Ankara’s focus on the Kastellorizo area as it considers it to be the Achilles’ heel of Greece’s maritime claims, Angelos Syrigos, an associate professor of international law and foreign policy at Athens’s Panteion University, wrote in Greek Kathimerini newspaper.

As Greece prepares for a general election this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will seek to exploit the vacuum, as he did in 2012 when he laid claim to the northern section of the Eastern Mediterranean, Syrigos said, noting that Athens must direct its policy with Ankara accordingly.

The year 2012 ‘’was the year that several maps depicting sea areas west of Cyprus and south of the eastern Aegean islands of Rhodes and Kastellorizo were published in the Turkish government gazette,’’ the article recalled,  in timing directly linked to political developments in Greece, 10 days ahead of parliamentary elections in Greece on May 6.

While Greece went on to lodge the usual complaints with the United Nations, while issuing vague condemnations of Turkey’s actions, it has failed to come up with a clear definition of what it considers the precise boundaries of its continental shelf in the Eastern Mediterranean and merely protests Turkey’s actions, it said.

In the coming days all eyes will be set on the statements by ExxonMobil Corp regarding offshore exploration in Block 10 off the coast of the divided island of Cyprus, Syrigos wrote. 

‘’The size of the deposit will decide the sustainability of the EastMed pipeline, incentives for future drills in the area, fresh talks to settle the Cyprus problem (under the same adverse conditions), and, ultimately, the strategic imprint of Greece and Cyprus on the new Eastern Mediterranean equilibrium,’’ the article highlighted.

As U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell has reiterated that the United States “would not take a friendly view in any kind of harassment in Cyprus waters, especially when US ships are involved,” Syrigos wrote,  Ankara has shifted its focus to the Aegean.

Turkey’s activity near Kastellorizo island does not impact on American interests and the sea area in question is officially claimed by Ankara, he highlighted.

As political polarization will be in full effect  while Greece counts down to the head the polls, Athens’ reactions to Ankara’s moves cannot be dictated by whim or serve the political ends of Greece’s junior coalition partner as it seeks to renew its representation in the House, Syrigos concluded.