Turkey seems to be heading to war with Europe in a possible repeat of a conflict last seen during Ottoman times, said Koert Debeuf, an associate researcher for the Institute for European Studies.
The Turkish and Greek governments are trading political blows over territorial rights in the Mediterranean. Greece is speaking the language of war while Turkey refuses to compromise on its claims for oil and gas in Greek-claimed waters, Debeuf said in an analysis for the EU Observer news website on Monday.
Ottoman History Repeat Itself
“This is very dangerous. It is not clear which way we shall head,” Debeuf cited colonel Mustafa Kemal, who became known as Atatürk and the father of modern Turkey, as saying in a letter in the summer of 1914, just before World War One, which led to the end of the Ottoman Empire.
In some ways the current situation in the Mediterranean mirrors those historical times, Debeuf said. Today there are two enemy alliances, just as there were in 1914, when Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy were facing off against Britain, France and Russia. War against one country meant war against all.
Now there is the ‘revolutionary alliance’ of Turkey, Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran. They are vying for influence with the ‘status-quo entente’ of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, Debeuf said.
“This is not about isolated incidents around a specific theme – such as gas or oil extraction – but about a complex conflict of interests in a broad theatre that stretches from Greece and Libya to Iran,” he said.
This time, Europe is again showing signs of division. France, Greece, and Cyprus support the status-quo entente, while Spain and Malta seem more prepared to support the revolutionary alliance. Italy is jaywalking between the two, depending on the file, Debeuf said.
But the stakes are much higher than mere words and trade agreements, he said.
In July, a French frigate was targeted by the radar of a Turkish naval vessel when France sought to inspect a cargo ship for suspected smuggled arms destined for Libya. A month later, Greek and Turkish military vessels collided.
France has sent warships and fighter jets to Greece. The UAE has dispatched F-16s to the Greek island of Crete. Egypt, conducting a military build-up on the border with Libya, is threatening action against Turkish-backed forces in Libya if they seek to extend an advance to take territory near the country’s oil reserves.
Just as in 1914, none of these countries want a Great War, they only want to protect their national interests, just like they did a century age, Debeuf said.
“But if European nations break their unity and get caught up in a festering conflict, anything is possible again,” he said. “”This is very dangerous”, Atatürk might have said, “it is not clear which way we shall head.””
Cyprus, Greece, France And Italy Combined Drills
Cyprus, Greece, France and Italy on Wednesday started combined and joint naval-air drills in the Eastern Mediterranean. The exercise, named Eunomia, contributes to the common security in the region and to defend the freedom of navigation, according to the French military.
As we reported earlier, France announced that it would increase its military presence in the eastern Mediterranean, citing “concerns about the tensions caused by Turkey’s unilateral decisions on oil exploration”. On Monday 10 August Turkey deployed a seismic research vessel, the Oruç Reis, escorted by military vessels, in the southeastern Aegean Sea, a disputed area of the Mediterranean rich in gas fields.
An exercise was already conducted between the Hellenic Navy and French Navy on August 13.
In a statement in a local media, Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said “the initiative aims to demonstrate the commitment of the four European Mediterranean countries to the rule of law as part of the policy of de-escalating tensions.”
A Cyprus Ministry of Defense statement on Eunomia mentioned: “This initiative demonstrates the collective intention and commitment of the four European Countries, for the implementation of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and Customary International Law, to maintain stability and respect for the Rules of Law, while guaranteeing the freedom of navigation in the Mediterranean.”
Contacted by Naval News, a spokesperson from the French joint command (État-major des Armées) said: “The Quad-EUNOMIA exercise is a multilateral activity, which debuted on August 26, in the south of Cyprus. Combining Greek, Cypriot, Italian and French naval and airborne means, this initiative which contributes to the common security in the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as defending the freedom of navigation. For the figures, being deployed, for France are three Rafale, as well as a La Fayette frigate and its helicopter.“
Meanwhile Turkish newspaper Milliyet reported that Turkish Naval Forces will hold a shooting training drill in the East Mediterranean on 1-2 September.
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