Small Island Flashpoint in the Mediterranean?

Daniel Pipes has written an extremely interesting piece about a little island that sits about one mile off the southern coast of Turkey. Its name is Kastelorizo and though its proximity to Turkey is much closer than Greece, the latter country is the one that currently controls Kastelorizo. As Pipes points out, it’s not necessarily the land itself that is so strategic but the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) it creates when and if Greece asserts its authority relative to that zone:

Were Athens to claim its full EEZ, Kastelorizo’s presence would make its EEZ contiguous with the EEZ of Cyprus, a factor with great import now, at a moment of massive off-shore gas and oil discoveries. Kastelorizo with an EEZ benefits the emerging Greece-Cyprus-Israel alliance by making it possible to transport either Cypriot and Israeli natural gas (via pipeline) or electricity (via cable) to Western Europe without Turkish permission. This has taken on special urgency since Nov. 4, when Turkey’s minister for energy, Taner Yıldız, announced that his government would not permit Israeli natural gas to transit Turkish territory; Ankara will likely also ban Cypriot exports.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling AKP party colleagues accept Greek control of Kastelorizo and its six nautical miles of territorial waters, but not more and certainly not its full EEZ rights. Indeed, in their eyes, Greek assertion of an EEZ constitutes a casus belli. By neutering Kastelorizo, Ankara can lay claim to large economic area in the Mediterranean and block cooperation among its adversaries. This is why the island could become a flashpoint.

In essence, if Turkey chooses to flex its muscle, it could re-define the EEZ’s, which would essentially have the same effect as a naval blockade between Cyprus and Greece. Considering Greece’s economic situation, the last thing it needs is to have commerce with Cyprus and Israel choked off.

Be sure to read it all, replete with maps.


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