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Mahmut Sami Söylemez

Student at the Department of Political Science and International Relations, Istanbul University, Turkey

The Eastern Mediterranean has been an important intersection of trade paths for thousands of years. The sea, which bordered The Coasts of Turkey, Egypt, Cyprus, and the Levant, witnessed the rise of the first civilizations from the first look and witnessed the birth and fall of dozens of civilizations. From the built-in life, people have been looking for resources to live their lives. These sources sometimes come across as water, sometimes as energy sources. The Eastern Mediterranean region, which has become a chessboard for international actors due to the conflicts in the Middle East, has gained even more importance as a result of natural gas resources discovered in recent years. With these developments, states that have been in the region for many years have needed to renew their energy and security policies in the region. In this article, the policies of the two important actors -Turkey and Russia- on the region and their approaches to security will be discussed.

Turkey, one of the major actors in the region, has been conducting a number of military operations on Syria's northern border over the past few years to create a safe zone against terrorist organizations that are making provocative moves against their territory. Similarly, Turkey, as the country with longest border to the Eastern Mediterranean region, has been doing a number of activities to provide energy exploration and security in its land water and in the regions it claims. We can define Cyprus as the key point of this policy carried out by Turkey. Turkey, which has been working jointly with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, has been active in the field recently with its drilling vessels. Turkey, which has consolidated its navy's presence in the region through military exercises such as the Blue Homeland Exercise, has also enacted a maritime jurisdiction agreement with the Libyan government in recent months.

The problems in the global world are no longer regional, they have become international. Therefore, non-regional states, such as Russia, which can dominate the region, are at critical points in international problems. Energy, especially Russia, a giant in the natural gas sector, has been in the Middle East/East Mediterranean region for years with its navy and army. Russia, which has been acting with the Baas Regime in its interests since the early years of the Syrian civil war, has dominated the ports of Lazkiye and Tartus and considers these areas to be the ladder to the warm seas that have been its target for three centuries. Similarly, Russia conducts military exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean with Turkey and Egypt, two separate allies of the United States, and plays an active role in the region with its long-range missile-laden navy, a guarantee of Russian presence in the Middle East.

The stalemate in the region is deadlocking the pragmatist policies of countries. Today the Eastern Mediterranean region suffers from the lack of an international mechanism with sanctions and decision-making power, but it has been recorded in the international arena for a very long time 24 hours a day. In the globalized world, it is inevitable that a crisis thousands of miles away will be dispersed by radio frequencies.

The Eastern Mediterranean has been an important intersection of trade paths for thousands of years. The sea, which bordered The Coasts of Turkey, Egypt, Cyprus, and the Levant, witnessed the rise of the first civilizations from the first look and witnessed the birth and fall of dozens of civilizations. From the built-in life, people have been looking for resources to live their lives. These sources sometimes come across as water, sometimes as energy sources. The Eastern Mediterranean region, which has become a chessboard for international actors due to the conflicts in the Middle East, has gained even more importance as a result of natural gas resources discovered in recent years. With these developments, states that have been in the region for many years have needed to renew their energy and security policies in the region. In this article, the policies of the two important actors — Turkey and Russia — on the region and their approaches to security will be discussed.

Introduction

The Eastern Mediterranean, which has been a key point of trade for centuries, is a region on the eastern side of the Mediterranean. Geographically, the southern coast of Turkey, Cyprus, the Greek Islands, the west coast of Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Israel, and Egypt covers the coast. Romans, who ruled on the axis of the Mediterranean for centuries, called the Mediterranean Mare Nostrum [1]. In the literature, it is also known as the Levantine Sea.

The Eastern Mediterranean is one of the most geopolitically important regions in the world. With the construction of the Suez Canal, the distance of the maritime trade to Far Asia shortened by about 7000 miles, and the region, which is currently valuable, has changed the dynamics of maritime trade for two centuries. The region, which was the intersection and rail of the Silk Road and the Spice Road in the past, continues with the same task in the trade sector by sea, which corresponds to 90 per cent of the world trade. Cyprus is the largest island in the Eastern Mediterranean. Known as the aircraft carrier of the region, Cyprus has been the focus of countries that want to manage trade routes throughout history. The island, which has been in the hands of Genoese Merchants, Mamluks, Venetians, Ottomans, and Britain since the 15th century, today consists of two parts as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the Greek Cypriot Administration. Rauf Denktas, the first President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, described the island as “the springboard of the Western powers to the Middle East.” The Cypriot sovereignty strengthens the hands of states that want to have flexible manoeuvrability in the region. The United States evacuated its citizens from Cyprus during the protests, and the US Navy hit Iraq with long-range missiles deployed in the Eastern Mediterranean during the Gulf Wars [2]. Similarly, France signed an agreement with the Greek Cypriot Administration on regional cooperation in 2007. Besides, France started to exist at the Mari Military Base in Southern Cyprus in 2017.

As can be seen, states have aimed to gain manoeuvrability in the region with the cooperation and agreements they have made regarding the region. If we look at the energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East, and Caspian regions, the Eastern Mediterranean has a geographical position that controls energy centers and pipelines carrying raw materials from these centers. 30 per cent of world trade and 70 per cent of Europe's oil needs are met through the Eastern Mediterranean. The Eastern Mediterranean, which acts as a crossroads between Europe and Asia, has attracted the attention of the world with the discovery of oil and natural gas reserves, apart from its place in the transportation and trade sectors. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Levant Basin State has 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and an average of 122 trillion cubic meters of recoverable gas.

According to 2019 data, Turkey imports over 45 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia, Azerbaijan, and Iran. The drought of Anatolian geography in terms of energy resources has caused Turkey to turn its sights to its blackwater and therefore to the Eastern Mediterranean. As a result, Turkey has started exploration and research within the framework of drilling activities in the region. Turkey, which channelled its navy into the region, has also taken some steps within its security policies in the region. Russia, which has a say in the energy sector and was previously in the region, is also in some activities to strengthen its presence in the region. As is known, the Russian military has been active in the Middle East since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War. That's why the Russian army, previously familiar with the area, is on the field with its navy.

In this article, the tension in the region and its security policies will be discussed based on naval and military statistics. The policies of regional or non-regional actors related to the Eastern Mediterranean regarding tensions and energy security in the region can be categorized as pre-gas and post-gas and evaluated according to the information obtained.

Security in the Eastern Mediterranean

One of the biggest problems in the region is that the maritime jurisdiction is not fully determined. Also, there is no formation among coastal countries that can determine maritime jurisdictions. Countries that are coastal to the Eastern Mediterranean determine their maritime jurisdictions within the framework of their agreements and agreements. The Greek Cypriot Administration signed Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) agreements with Egypt in 2003, Lebanon in 2007, and Israel in 2010. Currently, Greece, the Greek Cypriot Administration, and Egypt are still in talks on the Exclusive Economic Zone [3]. On the other hand, the Arab Spring process, which has created authority gaps in the region for a decade, the problem of terrorism, years of conflict have destabilized the region, and this instability is reflected in the Eastern Mediterranean region as a security problem. International disputes such as civil wars in Libya, Egypt, and Syria, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, disputes between Turkey and Greece over the Aegean Sea, the Cyprus issue are keeping tensions in the region at an even high level. For these reasons, regional or non-regional powers with goals for the Eastern Mediterranean are constantly trying to turn the momentum in a cycle to their advantage.

The First Energy dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean took place in 1979 when the Greek Administration sought oil along with Egypt. With the reaction of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Rauf Denktas and the Republic of Turkey, the Greeks were forced to step back. In the early 2000s, the authorities of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus said that one of the richest oil reserves in the world was discovered around the island of Cyprus, noting that the European Union and the United States began a process to take the entire island of Cyprus into the European Union under the Annan Plan to take control of these reserve resources.

The Greek Cypriot Administration continued its oil and gas exploration efforts with Egypt in 2003 and with Lebanon, Syria, and Israel in 2007. Following this process, the work of the Greek Cypriot Administration on the hydrocarbon exploration license and the maritime jurisdiction was also carried out. Several agreements on Eastern Mediterranean energy reserves have entered into force between the Administration of southern Cyprus and Israel, and drilling has begun under the auspices of Israel in recent years. Despite warnings from Turkey, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has granted the Turkish Petroleum Corporation a license for parcels around the island against the Greek Cypriot Administration, which has launched international tenders for energy exploration, and several agreements have been entered into with international companies.

The cooperation of the Greek Cypriot Administration with other states in the region and the maritime jurisdiction agreements signed can also be interpreted as a strategy to move the Cyprus problem to the sea. Turkey, citing the longest coast in the region, has given the message that it cannot seek energy reserves in the region without a compromise on the exclusive economic zone. At the beginning of the reasons for the occasional rise in tension in the region in recent years, joint drilling operations between the Greek Cypriot Administration and Israel, next to the Leviathan parcel, have been taking place [4].

The constant mobilization and acceleration of relations in the region keep tensions high, and it is seen that, apart from regional actors, non-regional actors such as Russia, the United States, and the European Union are trying to gain control of the ever-changing conjunctivitis.

Turkish Security Policies in the Region

Following the Agreement of The South Cyprus Administration with American Noble Energy, Turkey reached some agreements with Shell, one of the leading companies in the energy sector, for exploration and exploration in the region in retaliation. The fact that the region was not abandoned to its fate by the Turkish and Greek governments and that a policy was driven against each strategy once again confirmed the historical and geopolitical value of the region.

Turkey's idea is that the South Cyprus Administration should not recognize it as a state and that the search for oil and gas in the region is unlawful. The South Cyprus Administration, which represents the entire island as a member of the European Union as the “Republic of Cyprus,” is recognized by western powers, the United Kingdom has a military base in the southern part of Cyprus, and France's talks with the South Cyprus Administration on the installation of military bases in the region show that European forces are also involved in energy chess in the region. It supports the Administration of South Cyprus because of European states acting to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian gas and keep China out of the Eastern Mediterranean region [5].

Turkey should manage strong diplomacy in the region and therefore enact exclusive economic zone agreements with coastal countries. Accordingly, In recent months, Turkey has reached a maritime jurisdiction agreement with Libya's legitimate government, which is already experiencing a civil war, recognized by the United Nations. Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey, said that Turkey is ready for bilateral or unilateral agreement with every country except the Greek part of Cyprus.

The Eastern Mediterranean is reflected in Turkey's agenda with the term “Blue Homeland.” The doctrine was the basis of Turkey's active and military-based strategy in the maritime areas after 2015. Within the framework of this doctrine, the Blue Homeland Exercise, which was successfully carried out between February 28 and March 8, 2019, took place. The action, which was the largest naval exercise in Turkey's history, contained many messages about the region with Russia's participation in the exercise. In addition to diplomatic and strategic actions, Turkey also maintains contact with Chinese and Russian oil and gas companies.

Turkey has been continuing its diplomatic initiatives for nearly 16 years and made its military debut in 2018. The Turkish navy has forced the Italian energy company ENI to stop and return the drilling vessel, which was shipped to the southern part of Cyprus. Turkey, which is trying to certify its physical presence with its navy and drilling vessels in the region, also targets to play an active role in the crisis zone. In recent months, the reconnaissance and drilling vessel Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha sailed to the Mediterranean under the auspices of the Turkish navy and air force and continued its work. In addition to this ship, the Deep Sea Metro 1 ship named Yavuz, Fatih and, Oruc Reis ships also participated in the work and Turkey has concretely declared that it has begun exploration and drilling in the region. Reconnaissance and drilling vessels that have been harassed by Greek ships from time to time in the region have been removed from the region by the Turkish navy, risking a hot conflict.

Turkey is ranked 20th with 149 parts of navy elements, according to the United States-based Global Fire Power (GFP)'s 2020 report and world ranking. Turkey, which has the 5th largest navy in the region, has 16 frigates, 10 corvettes, 12 submarines, 35 coast guard squadrons, and 11 mine ships.

Although efforts have been made on military reconciliation in the region, Turkish officials have declared that they will not take any military or diplomatic steps towards the region. Recently, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that they are developing a mechanism between Turkey and Greece to avoid an “accidental” incident. “I welcome the establishment of a military de-confliction mechanism achieved through constructive engagement by Greece and Turkey,” Stoltenberg said, confirming that regional problems remain regional in the global world.

Currently, Turkey maintains its security policies on the Eastern Mediterranean with NAVTEX [6] announcements. Finally, Turkey, which declared NAVTEX in the longitude between Rhodes and Meis islands and put Athens on alert, is accompanying seismic research vessels with its navies.

Russian Security Policies in the Region

Russia has implemented a number of policies for access to the “Mediterranean” basin, which has been described as warm seas since the Tsar's time. The Russian Tsarism, which is covered with ice seas to the north, has no more than a few ports on the Black Sea coast. For these reasons, Russia, which has not made any progress in maritime trade, was the first of its year. Petro (1689-1725) was the first tsar to realize the importance of having large ports and opening up to warm seas, equipped for the development and trade of the state. Therefore, he turned his eyes to the straits and Black Sea basins of the Ottoman Empire. “Der Kürzeste Weg” in September 1893 by German Naval Captain Stenzel, who said that Russia had to obtain new ports to the hot seas to improve its exports and that the end of the Orient Issue depended on Russia having a free sea route for maritime trade. Nach Konstantinopel: ein Beispiel für das Zusammenwirken von Flotte und Heer” [Shortest Way to Istanbul: An Example of Army and Naval Unity Influence] (73 p.) was published in Kiel in German in 1894 [7].

Russia has had a military presence in the Middle East since the beginning of the Syrian civil war. According to some experts [8], there are two main reasons why Russia is in the Middle East: the need to maintain and maintain its presence in the region while maintaining its military bases in Syria, and to maintain and increase its economic weight in the Eastern Mediterranean. At the same time, Moscow's strategic priority is not Damascus, the capital of Syria, but also the Lazkiye and Tartus regions, which have coasts and ports to the Eastern Mediterranean. It can be said that the eastern Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern regions are very interconnected and that non-regional powers such as Russia have become a scale for resolving the instances of the region and for the hand to show themselves. Aiming to establish important relations with regional powers such as Turkey, Iran, Egypt and, Israel, Moscow is also conducting diplomatic efforts in this drive. The proximity of the Egyptian and Israeli states to the United States, another non-regional power of the region, translates the Russians' hand into Turkey and Iran. The key to U.S.-guided NATO's branding of Moscow could again be considered a diplomatic link between Turkey, a NATO member, with Russia. Turkey's problems with PKK/PYD and FETO terrorist organizations in recent years and its American role in this context have also put Turkey in search of new allies in the region. If an effective diplomatic link is established between the two countries, the potential for lessening US influence in the region will be revealed, and it will see Russia, which is competent enough to undermine the status quo against the United States, which has dominated the region since the Cold War.

Russia's Eastern Mediterranean policies have become a reflection of Middle-Eastern policies. In addition to Moscow's military position on the region, air defense systems, special forces and, naval units stationed in Syria have a presence on the ground. Russia has been supporting and selling military munitions to the Syrian government since 1956. In this context, military and trade ties between Russia and Syria have been going on for decades 9. Russia has held a military base in the Port of Tartus since 1971. In the past years, as a result of contacts with the Syrian governments, the capacity of the base has been increased and the port has been made suitable for the entry of cruisers 10.

Although Russia's activities are reflected as a negative factor in NATO and Turkey relations, they have been overcome by successful diplomatic initiatives by Ankara and Moscow. As well as being the political side of Russia's maritime activities in the region, it is also targeted to provide an economic interest, especially through the search for energy resources. Forty-four per cent of Europe's gas needs are met by Russia and Iran 11. Therefore, in response to this move by Europe, which forms a bloc in the Eastern Mediterranean against Russia, Russia is cooperating with Iran, another power of the region. Syrian and therefore Eastern Mediterranean ports are of great importance in this network.

Russia, which maintains its security in the region with its military bases and ports of the Levant coast, has also consolidated its presence by holding joint military exercises with other forces in the region. In 2016, the exercise with the Sisi regime close to the United States took the dynamics of the region to a different dimension. It is not enough to evaluate Russia's strategies for the region only through the Damascus administration and its relationship with Assad. Russia's economy is fundamentally dependent on oil and the country plans to follow its economic interests as well as become a reliable supplier in the region. In this context, Rather than supporting Assad, Russia planned to create a military and economic holding point for itself in the Eastern Mediterranean and to be in a dominant position in the region when the Syrian civil war ended [12].

Conclusion

The protests, which began in Tunisia in 2010 and spread to almost the entire Arab geography, sometimes overthrew the government and sometimes turned into a civil war, have changed the dynamics of the region at its root. During these developments, the regions have taken on a number of activities in order to improve and improve their border security policies. The fact that the authority gap in the region is a breathing ground for some terrorist organizations, the refugee crisis, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Palestinian conflict, civil wars, coups and, sectarian conflicts has naturally brought about disagreement and tension at sea.

The Eastern Mediterranean, which has been the crossroads of maritime trade for centuries, and the island of Cyprus, which has been the “jumping-off point” in the region, have become the focus of energy seeking in the past 50 years. In an area where the European Union is trying to penetrate to rid Russia of its dependence on energy, and by giant non-regional powers such as the United States and Russia, especially to dominate the region, there have also been some problems among coastal countries. The absence of an international organization with sanctions and authority that determines maritime jurisdictions is the main source of these problems.

Turkey, one of the major actors in the region, has been conducting a number of military operations on Syria's northern border over the past few years to create a safe zone against terrorist organizations that are making provocative moves against their territory. Similarly, Turkey, as the country with the longest border to the Eastern Mediterranean region, has been doing a number of activities to provide energy exploration and security in its land water and in the regions it claims. We can define Cyprus as the key point of this policy carried out by Turkey. Turkey, which has been working jointly with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, has been active in the field recently with its drilling vessels. Turkey, which has consolidated its navy's presence in the region through military exercises such as the Blue Homeland Exercise, has also enacted a maritime jurisdiction agreement with the Libyan government in recent months.

The problems in the global world are no longer regional, they have become international. Therefore, non-regional states, such as Russia, which can dominate the region, are at critical points in international problems. Energy, especially Russia, a giant in the natural gas sector, has been in the Middle East/East Mediterranean region for years with its navy and army. Russia, which has been acting with the Baas Regime in its interests since the early years of the Syrian civil war, has dominated the ports of Lazkiye and Tartus and considers these areas to be the ladder to the warm seas that have been its target for three centuries. Similarly, Russia conducts military exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean with Turkey and Egypt, two separate allies of the United States, and plays an active role in the region with its long-range missile-laden navy, a guarantee of Russian presence in the Middle East.

The stalemate in the region is deadlocking the pragmatist policies of countries. Today the Eastern Mediterranean region suffers from the lack of an international mechanism with sanctions and decision-making power, but it has been recorded in the international arena for a very long time 24 hours a day. In the globalized world, it is inevitable that a crisis thousands of miles away will be dispersed by radio frequencies.

References

Bodner, M. (2015, September 21). Why Russia is Expanding Its Naval Base in Syria. The Moscow Time.

Katman, F. (2013). Levant-Doğu Akdeniz ve enerji satrancı. ABMYO, 17-26.

Keleş, E. (2009). Rusya’nın Sıcak Denizlere İnme Politikası. Ankara Üniversitesi, 90-142.

O’Connor, T. (2017, July 4). Russia Sends Warships Toward U.S. Navy After Syria Bombing. Newsweek.

Özdemir, Ç. (2018). Rusya'nın Doğu Akdeniz Stratejisi. Ankara: SETAV.

Özgen, Y. D. (2016). Doğu Akdeniz'de Deniz ve Enerji Güvenliği. İstanbul: TASAM.

Öztürk, P. D. (2004). Kıbrıs Annan Belgeleri (I.II.III.) Üzerine Değerlendirmeler. İstanbul: Odak Yayınları.

Sözcü. (2020, Ağustos 11). Sözcü Gazetesi. Retrieved from Sozcu:

T.C. Deniz Kuvvetleri Komutanlığı. (2015). Akdeniz Kalkanı Harekatı. Ankara: T.C. Deniz Kuvvetleri Komutanlığı.

Tellegen-Couperus, O. (1993). A short history of Roman law. London: Routledge.

1. (Tellegen-Couperus, 1993)

2. (Öztürk, 2004)

3. (Özgen, 2016)

4. (Katman, 2013)

5. (Katman, 2013)

6. Maritime Warning Notice

7. (Keleş, 2009)

8. (Özdemir, 2018)

9. (Bodner, 2015)

10. (O’Connor, 2017)

11. (Özdemir, 2018)

12. (Özdemir, 2018)

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