An increasingly fractious standoff over access to gas reserves has transformed a dispute between Turkey and Greece that was once primarily over Cyprus into one that now ensnares Libya, Israel, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and feeds into other political issues in the Mediterranean and has raised fears of a naval conflict between the two Nato allies in the Aegean Sea.
The crisis has been deepening in recent months with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, leading those inside the EU opposing Turkey’s increasingly military foreign policy and saying Turkey can no longer be seen as partner in the Mediterranean. He has offered French military support to the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, including the possible sale of 18 Rafale jets.
The issue was on the agenda of a meeting of the Med7 group of southern Mediterranean leaders on the French island of Corsica on Thursday and again at an EU council meeting on 23 September that will discuss imposing severe sanctions on the already struggling Turkish banking sector over its demand for access to large swaths of the eastern Mediterranean.
Germany, the lead mediator between Turkey and Greece, is exploring an enhanced customs union between Turkey and the EU to calm the dispute, which has been exacerbated by vast hydrocarbon discoveries over the past decade in the eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey has long sought a broader customs union with the EU, and although Greece might see any such offer as a reward for bullying, Germany believes both carrots and sticks are needed to persuade Turkey to change its strategy..