Europe’s soft energy underbelly, an easy target for Turkey

OPINION: Europe’s desperation to quickly secure alternative sources of natural gas as it reduces its dependence on Russian supplies has weakened the continent’s geopolitical influence, exposing its soft underbelly to neighbors who see opportunities to advance their own agendas.

Following Russia’s use of gas supplies as a geopolitical weapon, Turkish President Recep Erdogan now believes the time has come to reassert his country’s rather fanciful claims to gas resources off Cyprus.

Erdogan believes the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus should share all the gas found offshore Cyprus, including the roughly 15 trillion cubic feet of resources held in Chevron’s Aphrodite, ExxonMobil’s Glaucus and Calypso discoveries. from Eni.

A few years ago, to bolster its claims, Turkey deployed its navy to prevent foreign companies from exploring in Cypriot waters and even drilled wildcats itself in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone.

After a two-year lull, Erdogan is now preparing to drill another exploration well in the eastern Mediterranean, most likely off Cyprus.

Further stoking tensions, Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah movement is threatening to launch missiles at Israeli gas platforms.

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It is no coincidence that the saber blows from Turkey and Hezbollah came weeks after Cyprus and Egypt, Israel and Greece reached an agreement with the European Union to export future volumes of gas to the EU.

This gas – much of it from Israel – could be sent to Europe via the EastMed gas pipeline project, which crosses both the Cypriot EEZ and the waters between Cyprus and Crete claimed by Turkey under a border agreement. rather bizarre shipping signed in 2019 with the United Nations-recognized government. In Libya.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine and cut gas supplies to Europe, the EU – and the US – threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey if it did not stop its posture naval, a policy that seemed to work.

However, with huge volumes of much-needed Azerbaijani gas being sent to the EU via pipelines crossing Turkey, Europe and the US must invoke delicate diplomacy to avoid Nord Stream-like ‘technical problems’ in the eastern Mediterranean. .

(This is an upstream opinion piece.)

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