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  The gas dispute in the Mediterranean

  9 Debates

Greece and Turkey have agreed to begin talks on 25 January - but with wildly different expectations. Athens only wants to discuss the "exclusive economic zone" and the gas reserves there; Ankara is determined to also tackle the maritime borders around the Greek islands near the Turkish coast. The media in both countries warn about their respective governments backing down.

At its summit on Thursday the EU decided to impose new sanctions against Turkey in reaction to Turkey's unauthorised gas explorations off the coast of Cyprus. Individuals and companies involved in the explorations now face entry bans and risk having their assets frozen. However, the EU stopped short of imposing sanctions on entire economic sectors. Commentators say Turkey has got off lightly.

Sanctions will be imposed on Belarus but not on Turkey. This is the result of last week's EU special summit. The heads of state and government will simply continue to threaten the country with punitive measures and try to use the prospect of eased trade to coax Ankara into stopping its exploratory gas drilling in the Mediterranean. Disappointment and indignation prevail in the commentary columns.

The EU is drawing up a list of potential sanctions against Turkey in a bid to convince it to restrict gas drilling in the Mediterranean to its own territorial waters. Athens and Nicosia have said they will only agree to sanctions against Belarus at the EU summit on 24 September if sanctions are also imposed on Ankara. What are the reasons for the lenient approach towards Turkey?

In the dispute over gas in the eastern Mediterranean, French President Macron on Thursday described Ankara's behavior as "intolerable" and declared that Turkey was no longer France's partner in the region. About a month ago the French army increased its naval presence in the region and relocated fighter bombers to Cyprus. Journalists are critical of Macron's stance.

Greece and Egypt on Thursday signed an agreement on setting up an exclusive economic zone in the natural gas-rich eastern Mediterranean. The move came in response to the agreement between Turkey and Libya, which they believed violated their interests. Turkey has now criticised the pact as worthless and declared its intention of resuming exploratory drilling for oil and gas reserves in the region.

After tensions between Greece and Turkey escalated into threatening military gestures, Ankara has suspended its exploratory drilling for gas in the eastern Mediterranean. The Turkish drilling ship 'Oruc Reis' has returned to the port of Antalya and Greece has withdrawn several naval vessels. According to media reports, talks have already begun between Ankara and Athens. The media nod their approval.

In the gas dispute the leader of the Cypriot Turks Mustafa Akıncı proposed setting up a joint committee to monitor the drilling and to divide the profits between both groups on the divided island. Previously the EU had imposed sanctions against Ankara because of Turkish drilling. Nicosia should think long and hard about the proposal, commentators say.

The EU member states have declared the military agreement signed between Libya and Turkey at the end of November to be null and void. Among other things the agreement redefined the maritime border between Crete and Cyprus, where natural gas reserves are located. In the meantime Erdoğan has stressed Turkey's willingness to send troops to Libya to support the internationally recognised government. Journalists criticise Ankara's actions.