Ankara bullies are too accustomed to calling the shots!

The exercise of soft power, which had become the main principle of Turkey’s foreign policy, has not lasted very long. The objective of zero problems with her neighbours, advocated by foreign minister Ahmed Davutoglu, appears to have fallen by the wayside as the Erdogan government started engaging in gunboat diplomacy in its dealings with Cyprus and Israel.

A week ago, EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis, was quoted as saying that Cyprus should not to start drilling for hydrocarbons because it would have to face the Turkish navy. He also pointed out that the last time a boat went on an exploratory mission, Turkish ships “were quick to make their way to the area”.

This was a pretty direct threat by the usually moderate Bagis.

The threat was repeated by the Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign minister’, Huseyin Ozgurgun, who urged Greek Cypriots to take Bagis’ advice seriously, “if they wanted peace and stability to be maintained in the region.” Bagis went as far as to claim that Turkey would make use of all its rights under international law, which was preposterous considering that any drilling would take place in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone.

On Tuesday Prime Minister Erdogan also entered the fray, threatening to send warships into waters patrolled by the Israeli navy.

Last Friday, after the release of the UN report on the killing of nine Turks by an Israeli raid on an aid flotilla, the Turkish government expelled Israel’s ambassador and several diplomats. Ankara was angered by the UN report’s conclusion that Israel’s blockade of Gaza was legitimate; relations were already strained by Israel’s refusal to apologise for the nine deaths.

Is the escalating of tension related to the under discussion, Cyprus-Israel energy deal?

Commentators have speculated that Turkey could be using its row with Israel as pretext to for a naval presence in seas between Israel and Cyprus, with the aim of preventing any drilling for hydrocarbons. Others have argued that Erdogan was stirring nationalist sentiment in Turkey – in order to pass his radical reforms of the constitution – and at the same time trying to pose as the leader of the Arab world.

Once a champion of regional stability, Erdogan has suddenly turned into its biggest threat, in what is presumably an attempt to stop Cyprus drilling for hydrocarbons, which was scheduled to start by next month. Would Noble Energy, which has the concession for the drilling, go ahead regardless? It is a very difficult situation for the company, which is unlikely to put at risk tens of millions of dollars worth of drilling equipment. And what could the Cyprus government do? It could report Turkey to the UN or appeal to the EU for help but this would certainly not deter the bullies of Ankara, who have become accustomed to calling the shots.

Source: Cyprus mail


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