Erdoğan confidant to propose EEZ agreement between Turkey and Israel - report

Former Turkish admiral Cihat Yaycı is expected on Monday to propose an agreement on Turkey and Israel’s shared exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the eastern Mediterranean, indicating a desire by Ankara to reconcile bilateral relations, Israel Hayom newspaper reported on Sunday.

The maritime borders suggested between the two countries would merge at the expense of Cyprus, which is embroiled in an ongoing spat between Turkey and the EastMed Gas Forum, a conglomerate of countries – which includes Greece, Egypt, Israel – collaborating to establish a regional gas market and export hub to Europe.

Turkey, which does not recognise Cyprus as a state, claims half of the country’s EEZ on behalf of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and has repeatedly carried out warship-escorted offshore surveying and drilling in the territory.

The Turkish-Israeli EEZ that Yaycı, a supporter of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, will propose could connect Israel’s intended gas pipeline to Europe via Turkey’s already existing pipeline, Israel Hayom said.

This option would be "significantly more practicable and cheap for Israel in comparison to the EastMed project", the daily said, citing Yaycı.

Yaycı’s proposal follows a report last week in Al-Monitor that Turkey’s national intelligence service chief had recently backchanneled with Israeli officials as part of a Turkish-initiated effort to normalise ties.

Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador and recalled its own in May 2018 over Israeli attacks on Gaza and the United States’ decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Turkish officials including Erdoğan had also rebuked Israel on a repeated basis over the country’s treatment of the Palestinian people.

Improving relations with Ankara was a welcome development, but any proposal that comes at the expense of Cyprus is a non-starter, a senior Israeli official told Israel Hayom.

“Cyprus is an ally of Israel and the maritime border between the countries is recognised by the United Nations and European Union," the official said.

Yaycı’s article will appear in Turkeyscope, an Israeli academic journal published by the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, the Israel Hayom said.