In recent years, the Eastern Mediterranean has become one of the main intersecting points for global geopolitics. Turkey is one of the leading Mediterranean countries: from the Syrian border in the east to Greece in the west, the northeastern part of the Mediterranean consists of Turkish territorial waters and borders. Eastern Mediterranean countries such as Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Egypt and Greece are situated on the oldest lands of humanity, making this region the cradle of civilization.
In the 17th century, when the Ottoman Empire saw its widest borders, the Mediterranean had almost become a Turkish lake. The Ottoman Empire ruled over the region, which stretched from Greece and Egypt to North Africa and the entire Middle East. After World War I, when the Ottoman Empire dissolved, North Africa and the Middle East were partitioned between Britain and France, while the Aegean islands were given to Italy.
After the end of World War II, however, the colonial empires of Britain and France were shattered by movements of independence in colonized countries. One by one, countries in the Middle East and North Africa won their national independence. As Italy abandoned the Aegean islands, Greece was awarded the so-called Dodecanese. This was a single-sided and illegitimate move that would create a series of political and social crises in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Populated by Turks and Greeks, Cyprus was under the guarantee of the United Kingdom, Turkey and Greece. When a military regime was established in Greece in 1967, the putschists invaded Cyprus in pursuit of the imperial “Megali Idea.” Making an unexpected move, Turkey landed troops in northern Cyprus and marked out the borders of the present-day Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
At that time, Turkey was being ruled by a coalition government composed of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the National Salvation Party (NSP). Bülent Ecevit was an indigenous leftist leader, while Necmettin Erbakan defended the union of Islamic countries. Thanks to the cooperation between these two strong political leaders, the Cyprus Peace Operation was launched despite fierce resistance from the United States. After a long period of recession, Turkey rescued a piece of its old territory from Western countries. It was a rupture in terms of Turkey’s status in international politics.
The presence of natural gas deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean has transformed the region into one of the main points of intersection of global geopolitics. Due to Turkey’s problematic relations with Egypt, Israel, Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, an anti-Turkish coalition was founded among these countries in the Eastern Mediterranean. From the outset, however, excluding Turkey, one of the leading Mediterranean countries, from the region was an impossible task.
Following the dictum “if you desire peace, get ready for war,” Turkey sent its navy to the Mediterranean to break the implicit siege. In Libya, which was abandoned to its fate after the Arab Spring, Turkey supported the United Nations-recognized government against putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar. Drawing a line with Libya across the Mediterranean, Turkey made all previous economic zones problematic.
Today, Turkish-Israeli relations are softening along with a rapprochement between Turkey and Egypt, while the U.S. has suspended gas transfers from Greece. Regarding the transfer of the Mediterranean natural gas to Europe, Turkish gas basins could be added to those already existing in Israel, Egypt and the Greek Cypriot administration. The most suitable place for a natural gas transfer seems to be using the existing Adana Yumurtalık pipeline, from where it could be transported to Europe over the already existing networks.
In Syria, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Nagorno-Karabakh war, Turkey utilized its hard power efficiently. This success motivated global and regional powers to strengthen their diplomatic ties with Turkey. The politics and opportunities of Mediterranean gas could lead to the establishment of a long-standing regional peace. It is most likely that Turkey and Israel will be the pioneers of this peace process. Their shared geography compels these two countries to recover their relations and cooperate for their mutual interests.