Erdoğan eyeing Cyprus to boost standing ahead of the Istanbul revote - Arab Weekly

An incursion in the divided island of Cyprus may serve as a convenient diversion from challenges facing the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ahead of the Istanbul mayoral revote, wrote Claude Salhani for the Arab Weekly.

The popularity of Turkey’s strongman has been gradually on the decline for several months and there is credible fear among Middle East analysts that Erdoğan is looking at intervention in Cyprus, the article said.

Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost  five of Turkey’s most populous provinces, including economic powerhouse Istanbul on March 31, ending the 25-year rule over the city of the party and its Islamist predecessors. The ruling AKP appealed the results citing fraud and irregularities at the ballots and the country’s top election council ruled for a rerun of the Istanbul mayoral election to take place on June 23.

This, along with a severe economic crisis at home, the article said, may tempt Erdoğan to go out on another limb in foreign policy.

‘’Revisiting Cyprus militarily could help Erdogan boost his fortunes, he might think, but it would cause him more headaches than he knows with neighbours, including Egypt and Israel not to mention the European Union and the United States,’’ Salhani wrote.

The Turkish president may also consider going after the maritime oil fields recently discovered off the coasts of Israel, Lebanon and Cyprus, of which Turkey has tried to lay partial claim, he added.

Turkey maintains the northern Turkish Cypriot state, which is only recognised by Turkey, should receive a fair share from gas resources of the disputed island. However, the internationally recognised Cypriot government says any wealth will be divided once the island reunited.

Ankara has added to tensions with major naval exercise involving more than 130 ships near Cyprus, the article said.

The Turkish navy on May 13 launched one of its largest naval exercises to date, in the Mediterranean, Aegean and Black seas. The exercise comes at a time of heightened tension between Turkey and its neighbours Greece and Cyprus over territorial disputes in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean.