Turks ‘disturbed’ by Israel, Cyprus natural gas ties (JERUSALEM POST) By SHARON UDASIN 07/06/12)
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Israel’s decision to partner with Cyprus on gas exploration could
further strain tense relations, expert tells ´Post´.
Israel’s decision to become an active partner with Cyprus on issues
of natural gas – despite the island nation’s unsolved political
disputes with Turkey – has left Ankara “disturbed” by its ally,
according to a Turkish expert.
“Turkey feels a little bit disturbed,” Prof. Mitat Celikpala of Kadir
Has University in Istanbul told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. “Not
betrayed, not put aside, but a little bit disturbed from all those
happenings. What we want is to solve the Cyprus issue first, and then
we cooperate. There is no question mark.”
While Celikpala said he understands that Israel, like every country,
has its own economic and trade interests, as a “partner and ally of
Turkey,” it behooves the state to work together with its northern
Celikpala spoke with the Post on the sidelines of a conference
titled “Natural Gas in the Eastern Mediterranean: Casus Belli or
Chance for Regional Cooperation?” held Thursday at the Institute for
National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, where he was a speaker.
The conference – which took a comprehensive look at the legal,
geopolitical and regional cooperation implications of the region’s
natural gas finds – was organized jointly by the INSS, Israeli-
European Policy Network, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Academic
Foundation, Universität der Bundeswhr Munchen and the Macro Center
for Political Economics.
Experts and conference attendees included representatives from around
the world, including Israel, Turkey, EU states, the US, Canada and
others, and notably, the ambassadors from Cyprus, Austria and Belgium.
Israel’s decision to partner with Cyprus on natural gas exploration
could potentially place further strain on the already tense
but “important” relations between Turkey and Israel, Celikpala told
“Cyprus is an issue for Turkey, a political one,” he said. “The
European Union membership of Cyprus, the Greek Cypriots, sort of blew
Turkey’s policies. It stopped and restricted Turkey’s options. “
Turkey, at the moment, does not immediately need the energy resources
found in the Eastern Mediterranean as it has plenty of its own, so
Ankara would first like to find a solution to the Cyprus political
issue, according to Celikpala. An independent, Greek Cypriot
government is the island’s recognized EU member, but a Northern
Cypriot population associates itself with Turkey.
“It is natural for Israel to have its own resources and produce all
those resources,” Celikpala said. “But establishing security
relations by making energy cooperation a basis between Israel and
Cyprus is a threat for Turkey.”
´Violation of sea border could be cause for war under UN convention´
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III) was
signed in 1982 by 162 countries, a convention from which both the US
and Israel abstained, explained Prof. Daniel Erasmus Khan, of the
Universität der Bundeswhr Munchen. UNCLOS defines the rights and
commitments of countries to use and maintain the sea, and restricts
the number of nautical miles from the shore that belong to each
relevant seaside nation. Through the UN convention, escalation was
resolved in a natural resources dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon,
as well as another between Romania and Ukraine, Khan said.
Under UNCLOS, violations of sea delimitations that have been signed
and ratified by bordering countries could in fact constitute a casus
belli – something as bad as a land violation, according to Khan.
“Tensions may suddenly erupt and arise when natural resources come
into play,” Khan said.
While Israel has abstained from ratifying the convention, it largely
abides by its rules and predominantly sees it as a binding contract,
said Sarah Weiss Ma’udi, of the International Law Department at the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Turkey, like Israel and the US, is not a signatory member of UNCLOS,
but largely subscribes to it, according to Prof. Harry Tzimitras of
Istanbul’s Bilgi University.
“Politically speaking, because of instability in the area, Turkey
wishes to have a foot and thus has less of an incentive to delimit
things,” Tzimitras said.
In terms of agreeing on maritime borders in the Eastern
Mediterranean, Cyprus and Egypt agreed to the first one in 2003 –
while Cyprus and Lebanon agreed to one in 2007 but never ratified the
agreement – and Cyprus and Israel signed and ratified their agreement
in 2010, Khan said. There is no mutually agreed upon delimitation
boundary between Israel and Lebanon, and it is difficult to imagine
one occurring in the future, he added.
“I’m not an optimist regarding whether the wealth that’s in the
seabed will actually be used for political reconciliation,” said Dr.
Rem Korteweg, of The Hague Center for Strategic Studies in the
Netherlands. “One of the fundamental problems I see is a tenacity of
zero-sum thinking regarding what to do with the gas finds.”
If all the relevant countries have a rigid conceptualization of their
sovereignty and are not willing to bend at all, then the region will
not get anywhere near achieving regional cooperation, according to
Veering back to Turkey and its own rigid conceptualization of
Cyprus’s status, Tzimitras explained that “it is very clear that
Turkey formally does not accept the right of the Republic of Cyprus
to represent in law or in fact, the whole island.” Turkish law holds
that Greek Cypriots cannot conduct explorations for gas on behalf of
the entire island, as this is viewed as a violation of Turkish
Cypriot rights, he said.
“Because the Cyprus issue has cost Turkey so much financially and
politically, it is about time to get something out of it in the sense
of hydrocarbons,” he said.
Tzimitras, however, was a bit more positive than Celikpala about the
effect that stronger Cypriot-Israeli relations would have on Israel
and Turkey’s relationship.
“I don’t think that the undercurrents of Turkish-Israeli relations
will suffer beyond that,” Tzimitras told the Post after the
conference. “I’m hoping that it’s a temporary setback.”
´Syria, Iran issues could force J´lem, Ankara back together´
“I don’t think it’s going to affect the deep underlying strategic
relationship, especially if developments in Syria go in a way that
will create a strategic need for a revamping of the relationship
between Israel and Turkey,” he added. “I think that eventually logic
will prevail, and they will go back to what they had already. It was
Celikpala, too, said he felt that the regional problems with Syria
and Iran might force the two now tense countries back together.
Marveling at the energy finds in the region, INSS director Maj.-Gen.
(ret.) Amos Yadlin reminisced about studying geography during his
“One of the maps I do remember is the map of the energy sources,”
Yadlin said. “And the energy sources in Middle East were
unfortunately concentrated much to the east, to the Gulf area – Iran,
Iraq, the UAE.”
“If there are maps like that, I think the good news is that the
energy is moving west, to countries that never had this wealth of
energy resources,” Yadlin added. “Countries that never understood
this gift of gold are starting to cope with a challenge.” Such
challenges can have profound political implications on the countries
who discover the resources, as well as their neighbors, according to
“Conflicts can erupt around the issue but on the other hand it can
bring regional cooperation among countries,” he said. (© 1995-2011,
The Jerusalem Post 07/06/12)
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