Greece, Cyprus likely losers if Ankara shifts direction toward Washington - analysis

If Ankara shifts its foreign policy direction toward Washington even slightly, the U.S. political establishment’s pattern over the last 40 years shows a tendency to prioritise Turkey means Greece and Cyprus are likely to lose out, analysts Phillip Christopher and Andy Manatos said in Ekathimerini on Thursday.

In recent months, many analysts have discussed a possible break between Turkey and the NATO alliance, as Turkey has moved closer to Russia by expanding the political and military cooperation between two countries.

Turkey’s decision to buy Russian S-400 missiles has strained its relations with Washington, which has repeatedly warned Ankara that it might face sanctions, including a possible expulsion from the F-35 program.

Turkey also objects to Cyprus and Greece’s efforts for gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean. Ankara says the break-away Turkish Cypriot state, which is only recognised by Turkey, should receive a fair share from gas resources of the disputed island, while it has territorial claims that overlap with Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The competition over gas resources in the Aegean has also brought the dispute over maritime borders between Turkey and Greece back to the surface.

Meanwhile, Washington has stepped up efforts to protect its security interests in the Middle East, the Balkans, and the North Africa by joining the Eastern Mediterranean Partnership (EMP) of Israel, Greece, and Cyprus.

However, Washington’s tightening bonds with those three countries will last only until the moment Turkey’s changes its foreign policy direction, according to Christopher and Manatos.

“(If) Turkey shifts in our direction even slightly, our foreign policy establishment will likely drop Cyprus and Greece – as its pattern over the last 40 years suggests. This profoundly flawed and tilted diplomatic mindset could again see Greece and Cyprus as the losers of an unnecessary zero-sum game, where the ultimate losers are regional balance and America,” the analysts said, referring to Turkish-U.S. relations.

The only way to avoid such an outcome is to institutionalise the EMP, regardless of the United States’ relations with any other country, according to analysts. This course of action was suggested in a new U.S. Senate bill introduced on Apr. 9, which signalled a significant change to Washington’s approach to the Eastern Mediterranean.

The new legislation suggests an end to the arms embargo which was imposed on Cyprus in 1987 in order to encourage reunification by preventing an arms race on the island. It has also been interpreted as a warning to Turkey not to interfere with energy exploration in its neighbourhood.