Event Summary: Turkey’s Mediterranean Policy
On Monday, January 6, 2020, the SETA Foundation at Washington, DC hosted a panel of experts to discuss ‘Turkey’s Mediterranean Policy.’ The discussion featured Burhanettin Duran, General Coordinator of The SETA Foundation, and Cagri Erhan, Rector of Altinbas University and a member of the Presidential Foreign Policy and Security Committee. The panel was moderated by Kilic B. Kanat, Research Director at SETA DC.
To begin the discussion, Cagri Erhan displayed a PowerPoint presentation which discussed the background and details of Turkey’s interests in the Mediterranean. He made it clear that the agreements signed with Libya are, indeed, in compliance with international law. Among many contested maritime boundaries, Erhan drew attention to those of Greece and Egypt. Turkey has a continental shelf boundary with Egypt separating exclusive economic zones, but he highlighted that Greece claims vast amounts of territory due to its small islands. He also mentioned that the US Congress has recently passed resolutions against Turkey, with some even bringing up the arms embargo with Cyprus, which could have implications for the balance in the region. In regards to issues of US-Turkish relations, Erhan asserts that the Americans have made a mistake by putting all of the issues in one basket rather than addressing them separately; the S400 issue is not the same as issues vis a vis the Mediterranean.
Burhanettin Duran maintained that the recent memorandums concern Turkey’s protection of strategic interests in the Mediterranean, and the deployment of military personnel to Libya falls in line with those objectives. Turkey does not want to be involved in the military conflict but is rather helping the Libyan government by creating the possibility of a political solution. He called for a political process that unites the international community; if the US and Europe fail to get involved, the conflict will be left to Turkey and Russia. Duran noted that Turkey and Russia have cooperated in Syria and President Erdogan and President Putin have a good diplomatic relationship, so there is a prospect for a political solution. But, he believes that Russia’s involvement in Libya is more symbolic and that it cannot have an impactful effect on the ground. Overall, Turkey’s strategic goal in Libya is to stay out of the military conflict and pave the way for a viable political solution.