Troubled Waters

The recent discovery of gas in the Eastern Mediterranean has
paved the way for notorious realpolitik in the region.

By Shaarif Sameer | October 2020

“Geography is destiny”, said Abraham Verghese, an American author, but the same geography can be a cause of international conflicts, civil unrest, or even disintegration of a state. Such is the case of Turkey which has an exotic tourism industry because of its cultural and religious history and apt location, but at the same time, its geography has embroiled the country in domestic strife and regional conflicts. It is not the first time in the last few years that Turkey has found itself at odds with its neighbours, whether it’s the former’s military operation in Syria, police action in Iraq, or military support to the Libyan government to fight its civil war. The most recent of these imbroglios is the newly discovered gas reserve in the Eastern Mediterranean and contesting claims of two immediate yet hostile neighbours: Turkey and Greece.

Both Turkey and Greece have been at odds for a long time over the delimitation of maritime and aerial boundaries, the Cyprus issue, the Refugees crisis, and recently, the disparate claims on oil reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean. However, these disagreements and contentions are not new as their genesis can be traced back to the Ottoman Empire, that ruled modern-day Greece, and to the World Wars in contemporary times. Different religions in both nations have exacerbated the situation. This was the same reason that Greek and Turkish minorities, in others’ countries, have always been persecuted and wronged. The Cyprus issue has also been a cause of discord between the two neighbouring nations, an island-state whose one-third area is under Turkish control; it is commonly known as Northern Cyprus while the rest is controlled by the Greek-supported Cypriot government. The recent discovery of gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean has not just brought the two countries at the brink of a military conflict, it has also reopened old wounds.

Turkey is already under scrutiny by the European Union for its role in Libya, Iraq, and Syria; by the USA for its aggressive foreign and domestic policy; and by Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt for its involvement in Libya and maritime encroachment in the Eastern Mediterranean. By the virtue of foreign powers and Tayyip Erdoğan’s cavalier foreign policy, Turkey seems alone and without any friends in the region. Turkey has one big Achilles heel and that is her dependence on other nations for energy needs. It imports 90% of its energy requirements taking the energy import bill to $46 billion. Hence, when gas reserves are found in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey’s stringent stance can be understood in the context of her energy needs. This has now become a matter of national security for Turkey. The situation is worsened by similar yet contesting claims of the Greek government.

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The writer is a graduate of NUST Business School. He covers international relations, current affairs and Pakistan affairs. He can be reached at

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