This didn’t make the Turkish headlines, but at the beginning of the week there was a development of critical importance for Turkey.
The US administration, in a diplomatic note sent to Greece, stated that it does not support the Eastern Mediterranean oil/ natural gas pipeline project (the East-Med Pipeline Project) pioneered by Israel, Greece, and Cyprus, excluding Turkey.
The project, launched by Greece, Greek Cyprus, and Israel in 2020, foresees the establishment of a pipeline approximately 1900 km long, which will bypass Turkey and connect Israel’s oil and natural gas resources to Greece. The cost of the project is to be over USD 7bn.
Washington’s use of a diplomatic notice to convey this issue to Athens is interesting. The correspondence, which stated that the US did not find the project productive, was carried out using a “non-documentary document,” a method frequently used in diplomacy. The peculiarity of this correspondence is that one country can express its opinion on a matter to another, but the notification does not have the status of an “official document.” The US’s choice of “non-official” correspondence was interpreted as a means of preventing Athens – which has invested significantly in this project – from being put in a difficult situation when the US declared its position.
THE US DOES NOT SUPPORT THE PROJECT BECAUSE….
Three factors were included in the US declaration, explaining why the country does not want to give support to the project.
The possible destructive impact of the project on the environment.
The pipeline project, which is planned to reach Greece from Israel, through Greek Cyprus and the Mediterranean, is not seen as economically efficiency.
The project is creating tension in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The third reason given by the Americans is very valuable for Turkey. The issue acknowledged by Washington by using the word “tension” is, in fact, Turkey’s discontent at being excluded from the project. The tension comes from the perception by Turkey that there was an alliance of countries formed by the project that “flanked” themselves against Ankara.
The Eastern Mediterranean pipeline project is not new. Therefore, it is worth asking why the US decided to make this declaration now.
The apparent reason for this is the Washington administration’s foreign policy interest in surrounding China and turning its military and economic power towards the Asia-Pacific region. Obviously, the US doesn’t want regional problems to be a distraction while dealing with China.
The showdown with Russia over Ukraine and Washington’s efforts to focus on diplomacy in order to resolve this showdown are also related to this. If relative stability can be achieved in Europe and the Middle East, the US can focus on China more easily.
THE GREAT MIDDLE EAST PROJECT NOW “WORKING IN REVERSE”
From this point of view, it is possible to understand why the AKP government is suddenly trying to make peace with the UAE, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Again, this is a “Greater Middle East Project” led by the US, but unlike in the 2000s, it is now working in reverse.
Contrary to the “Greater Middle East Project,” which was based on street movements in the Arab world in the 2000s and changed administrations in Egypt and Tunisia, and also led to the civil war in Syria, America is now trying to maintain regional stability through diplomacy without touching the regimes of other countries.
The sudden reconciliation of the Arabs with Israel and the efforts of both the UAE and Saudi Arabia to contact Iran are also related to this. This is the reason why the Khashoggi murder has been covered up and why the human rights violations of the Sisi regime in Egypt and the suspension of the democratic process in Tunisia are tolerated.
The fact that the ruling AKP in Turkey has quietly withdrawn support for the Muslim Brotherhood in recent months demonstrates its efforts to adapt to this new wave.
The tactic in Ankara is clear: to ensure that there is no problem abroad, but to be aligned with Washington and its allies so they might ignore the democratic issues in Turkey.
THE PATH TO NORMALIZATION WITH ISRAEL BEGINS…
While Washington expressed its negative views of the Eastern Med project, of which Israel is a signatory, it is not difficult to presume that they contacted the Israeli government beforehand.
Both in Ankara and in Tel Aviv, the trend towards normalization of Israeli-Turkish relations has become more apparent. However, at the beginning of this conflict Israel was on the Greek side.
It became easier with Washington’s intervention to do away with Israel’s signature without offending the Greek parties. The “document” Washington sent Athens at the expense of Greece also paves the way for high-level visits between Ankara and Tel Aviv.
Who knows? Maybe Israel will be added to the UAE and Saudi Arabia tour Erdogan is to take in February.