Turkey, EU should turn to diplomacy to resolve East Mediterranean differences - analyst

Turkey and the European Union should prioritise trust-building measures and diplomacy to address differences over the gas-rich eastern Mediterranean, Sinan Ülgen, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, wrote in Bloomberg on Wednesday.

Turkey felt increasingly isolated in the gas-rich eastern Mediterranean as Greece and Cyprus took advantage of regional cooperation schemes and international alliances. But, Ankara tipped the balance with its intervention in the Libyan conflict and maritime deal with the United Nations-recognised government in Libya.

"But to capitalise on its strategic gains Ankara should now prioritize multilateral diplomacy, or risk being mired in regional conflicts," Ülgen said.

Meanwhile, Turkey has been also at odds with the EU over Turkish drilling efforts off the divided island of Cyprus.

In February, the EU sanctioned Turkey over what it called illegal drilling in the eastern Mediterranean, including a freeze to 146 million euros of pre-accession assistance for Turkey for next year, the suspension of negotiations for an aviation agreement, and a review of lending to Turkey from the European Investment Bank, worth 386 million euros last year.

"The EU’s predicament is the result of its stalling of Turkey’s accession process and the failure of Brussels to come up with a new constructive engagement with Ankara. The confrontation in Eastern Mediterranean provides an entry point for the Europeans to re-engage with Ankara," the analyst said.

The bloc should appoint a special representative for the eastern Mediterranean who would be tasked with conducting shuttle diplomacy between Ankara, Brussels, Athens and Nicosia "to work toward a deal on sharing off-shore resources", he said.