The US must counter the growing Turkish aggression in the eastern Mediterranean, former senior US officials said in an article published by Newsweek.
"Washington's own lack of focus on the region helped invite Ankara's aggressiveness, which in turn is increasing tensions at the heart of the transatlantic alliance, undermining America's ability to promote peaceful energy development and worsening the civil war in Libya," write Eric Edelman, former US Ambassador to Turkey and Charles Wald, former deputy commander of US European Command.
"A new report released today from the Eastern Mediterranean Policy Project at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA), which we co-chair, illustrates the troubling effects of Turkey's actions amid COVID-19 and how things could go from bad to worse with further U.S. inaction," they noted. "Certainly, Turkey was becoming steadily more assertive in the years prior to the pandemic. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's embrace of an interventionist, Islamic-tinged nationalism led to confrontations with almost every other country in the Eastern Mediterranean—in particular, over Libya and exploring the region's potentially massive undersea natural gas deposits. Driven largely in reaction to Turkish policy, even before coronavirus many U.S. partners in the Middle East and southern Europe—including NATO allies France and Greece—began developing closer defense and energy ties among themselves."
According to them, while COVID-19 thus far has impacted the region less than other global hotspots, its economic effects are hitting the energy sector especially hard.
"This is delaying further exploration by American and other Western companies, as well as damaging prospects for a major U.S.-backed pipeline project to send gas from Cyprus and Israel to Europe. Turkey's economy, which only began emerging from recession last year, appears especially stressed by the pandemic."
"Yet rather than mend ties with neighbors and important trade partners, Erdoğan turned to his fellow Muslim Brotherhood-supporting ally Qatar for financial relief. He also doubled down on his recent aggressions in potentially energy-rich waters around Cyprus and Greece, and on the ground in Libya. In June, Paris accused a Turkish warship of essentially training its guns on a French frigate enforcing the Libya arms embargo. Then in July, Turkey announced, but has yet to fulfill, plans to explore for energy around Greek islands."