“I informed my friend Prime Minister of the latest developments in the Cyprus problem … We exchanged views on the Turkish challenges and discussed ways to address them,” President Anastasiadis said.”
Both Mediterranean leaders affirmed that the root solution to the Cyprus problem is the withdrawal of Turkish troops. The Prime Minister of Greece said:
“I am pleased with the forthcoming Anastasiadis-Akinji meeting. There is no solution to the Cyprus problem without the withdrawal of the occupying troops on the island … Cyprus will have the support of Greece and the EU in any escalation of energy challenges”
Nationalist affinity was expressed when the Greek Prime Minister said that when Greece is strong, Cyprus is strong and that “Hellenism” is strong as well. He assured that “our long-standing friendship and close ties will continue for the good of both the Cypriot and the Greek Hellenism in general, for the good of both countries”.
The tensions between Turkey and Greece over Cyprus has to do with control over natural gas drilling, a geopolitical situation that also involves Egypt and Italy. This goes back to the 2018 Cyprus gas dispute. In February of 2018, a Saipem 12000 drill ship working for the Italian energy company, Eni, was heading towards Cyprus after the Cypriot government agreed for the ship’s arrival. The Turkish navy blocked the ship from entering. Turkish naval ships told the drill ship that it could not continue due to Turkish military activity in the area. Turkey’s claim is that there are certain areas in Cyprus’s offshore maritime zone belonging to the Turkish side of Cyprus (essentially saying that they belong to Turkey).
Cyprus’ President Nicos Anastasiadis then accused Turkey of violating international law and affirmed (in very typical diplomatic fashion, of course) that Cyprus would take “necessary steps” without specifying anything that he was going to do. Anastasiades told journalists in Nicosia:
“From our side, our actions reflect the necessity of avoiding anything which could escalate (the situation), without of course overlooking the violation of international law perpetrated by Turkey”
Cyprus has an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in partnership with Greece and Egypt in the eastern Mediterranean. This has caused not only tensions between Turkey and Greece, but Turkey and Egypt as well. When Turkey’s Fatih ship started drilling on the western half of Cyprus in May of 2019 and when its Yavuz ship had recently arrived east of Cyprus (this also is planning to commence drilling), Egypt began to express worry. Egyptian foreign ministry said Turkey’s intention to drill “represents a continuation of unilateral measures that serve to increase tension in the Eastern Mediterranean region,” and insisted on avoiding escalation. There was a boundary demarcation agreement between Egypt and Cyprus in 2013, which allowed Egypt to explore oil and gas in their economic zones. But Turkey has rejected this demarcation agreement.
In 2015, the Italian energy company, Eni, discovered what was described as the largest gas field as the eastern Mediterranean’s largest gas field off Egypt’s coast. It is known as the Zohr gas field, and it is expected to produce 2.7 billion cubic feet of gas a day by the end of 2019. This discovery reinvigorated the energy sector of Egypt which hopes to have energy independence. Egypt currently imports 1.2 billion cubic feet of gas every day at a cost of $2 billion a year, so the Zohr field will boost Egypt’s poor economy significantly. But Turkey wants its hands on this natural resource. The Turkish rejection of the Egyptian-Cypriot demarcation agreement is essentially a rejection of Egypt’s right to its own energy. Yehia Kidwani, a member of Egypt’s parliamentary Defence and National Security Committee, said Turkey’s actions “is tantamount to a declaration of war … Egypt is more than capable of defending its own rights in the Mediterranean.”
This isn’t just about Cyprus and Greece. This is an entire geopolitical rivalry that brings both Africa and Europe into the whirlwind of tensions. Turkey’s rivalry with Egypt also involves Sudan. The last Sudanese dictator, the mass murderer Omar al-Bashir, was a puppet for Turkey who was used to keep Egypt in check. Sudan has been, in the words of Cengiz Candar, “the Achilles heel of Egypt.” Turkey’s most important enterprise for Sudan is the construction of a new Turkish military base on the Suakin Island, which is right on the Red Sea next to Saudi Arabia. Turkey has also been doing a tremendous amount of investment into the Sudanese infrastructure. This is of course for geopolitical reasons that advance Turkey’s hegemony in Africa. Turkey’s actions in Sudan are being planned and done for the purpose of off-balancing the axis between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. By Bashir being removed and replaced by the de facto leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Turkey has supposedly lost its puppet. The lost of Bashir’s power has supposedly been pleasing to Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
But here is the bottom line: Turkey is economically wealthier and and militarily more powerful than Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Realistically speaking, Turkey is a major superpower with tremendous amounts of power thanks to the US which wants Turkey to be a powerhouse to protect American interest in the Middle East. But Turkey wants to expand outside of the Near East, into Africa and deeper into Cyprus. Turkey wants to control the entirety of the Mediterranean and to advance through Africa and take Sudan and Egypt. I doubt Egypt is going to stop this.
Germany is also backing Turkey.
Recently, Turkey put 42 German tanks in the Turkish part of Cyprus. As Tovima reported:
As the klieg lights of international attention were turned toward Turkey’s illegal activity in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Republic of Cyprus, Ankara in a secret operation transported 42 German Leopard-2A4 supertanks tanks to Kythrea in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus.
The tanks along with their ammunition were transported from the Turkish city of Edirne by transport ship.
The tanks belong to Turkey’s First Army in the Evros region, where all Turkish Army tanks with 120mm projectiles are kept (the Leopard 2A4 and the Israeli M-60T Sabra) along with modernised Leopard-1T tanks with 105mm projectiles.
Germany sold these tanks to Turkey. Although Germany is expressing disfavor to Turkey’s actions in Cyprus, money trumps words. Germany has been an ally to Turkey since German reunification in 1871. This will not end.