Turkey risks exclusion from energy cooperation among countries in the eastern Mediterranean and replacing Israel as the Middle East’s isolated country, Daniel Markind, a lawyer specialising in energy law, said on Thursday.
The potential from rich hydrocarbon reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has over the last decade reoriented the entire region, Markind wrote in an opinion piece in Forbes, citing an example in which Lebanon broke a decades-long Arab taboo of establishing diplomatic relations with Israel this month.
Egypt and Jordan have also joined Israel in a multilateral energy trade association in September. The East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF), which also includes Greece, Cyprus and Italy, unites regional rivals of Turkey, a nation which Markind said may be “left behind” from regional energy cooperation if it refuses to realign its foreign policy.
“The Turks evidently have chosen not to be part of the six-nations development agreement, despite having the largest economy in the region. Arguably then, Turkey would stand to benefit substantially by including itself,” he said.
In recent years, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has increased Turkey’s confrontational policies against Israel and other countries in the region.
The Turkish armed forces have provided substantial military support to Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in a conflict against opposition forces led by General Khalifa Haftar, who is backed by Egypt, Jordan and several other countries.
In return for the support, the GNA signed a maritime border agreement with Ankara in November intended to legitimise Turkey’s claims to abundant offshore gas and oil reserves in the eastern Mediterranean, causing a spat with members from the EMGF over a pipeline project off the Cypriot coast.
“Turkey has focused its energies more on disrupting other nations’ development of these resources than attempting to develop its own,” Markind said.
Cooperation between countries in the region “acts not only as a form of economic development but also as a counterweight to the political extremism within Turkey and Iran”, he said. “Unless Erdoğan realises this and readjusts, it may be Turkey and not Israel that ultimately feels the sting of isolation in the future Middle East.”