In a recent article published in Bloomberg on 20 January 2014, former U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, Mr. Mathew Bryza, argues that the L.N.G. terminal – which is planned to be built in Cyprus – should be combined with the creation of a natural gas pipeline, connecting Israel and Turkey.
This pipeline would provide Israel with a cheap way of exporting natural gas from the Leviathan field and enhance peace and cooperation in the region. According to Mr. Bryza, “building an Israel-Turkey pipeline connected to a Cyprus L.N.G terminal offers strategic opportunities that transcend economics, including a chance for Israel and Turkey to restore their strategic partnership. It would also push Turkey to reach an agreement on the Cyprus question, removing a 40-year irritant in relations with Europe and re-energizing Turkey’s flagging efforts to join the EU. The U.S., working with the EU, should help to shape this future. Mr. Bryza believes that the Republic of Cyprus should participate in this project, having in mind that “some of the pipeline’s early revenue (…) would be used to enable financing of the Cypriot terminal.”
Mr. Bryza is a member of board of Turcas Energy Group AS, which is proposing such a pipeline. This probably explains his sense of urgency regarding Turkey’s interests in the exploitation of Levantine’s hydrocarbons. However, his pro-Turkish enthusiasm makes him forget how crucial such a decision would be, not only for the countries of the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean, but for Europe and all the regional stake holders as well.
Such a decision would render Turkey a regional energy hub and put it in control of the region’s energy exports. Contrary to Mr. Bryza’s views, Turkey’s recent record should cause skepticism, not enthusiasm for the following reasons:
1. The Turkish political system is extremely corrupted. Several ministers of Mr. Erdogan’s government resigned recently, after allegations that they were implicated in a bribery scandal.
2. Political instability is the rule in Turkey, not an exception. Since 1960 four military coups have taken place, while in 2007-2009 the government arrested a big portion of the army’s leadership after accusations of plotting to overthrow Prime Minister Erdogan. Moreover, in the last few months the Turkish political system is convulsed by social uprising and an intensive tug-of-war between Mr. Erdogan and his former mentor Mr. Fethullah Gulen.
3. Since 1974 Turkey occupies 37% of the land of Cyprus, a full member state of the United Nations Organization and the European Union, in breach of the international law and EU principles (despite the fact that it aspires to achieve accession to the Union).
4. The Turkish foreign policy implements a neo-ottoman expansionist doctrine, in pursuit of hegemony in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. Based on extreme Islamist ideas Turkey systematically attempts to become the leader of the Arab world, thus displacing other dominant powers.
All the above are good reasons for the United States and the rest of the great powers to be cautious. Turkey is not a benevolent pivot any more: it is a rather roguish state which has its own, revisionist agenda.
The causes of a stable Middle East and free exploitation and transportation of energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean can only be served by stable, democratic states which respect international law and cooperate with each other.
Having an -internally unstable- international bully as energy key-player is a rather unwise option!