The Eastern Mediterranean has become increasingly tense in recent years. As Turkey continues to assertively advance its claims in this strategic region, other powers are reacting by strengthening their cooperation. This complex situation presents many similarities with the South China Sea dispute, and just like an informal coalition known as QUAD has emerged in Asia in response to China’s actions, something similar could happen here with regards to Turkey. Growing security cooperation between Greece, Cyprus, Israel, and Egypt suggests that this ‘QUAD of the West’ could emerge over the next few years, and other regional powers might become involved as well.
Complex regional geopolitics
The geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean enmeshes multiple regional and external powers in a complex system of interests. There are five main regional actors: Turkey on the one hand, and a nascent coalition between Greece, Cyprus, Israel, and Egypt on the other.
Each of these four players has its own reasons to adopt an antagonistic alignment with Turkey.
Greece’s relations with its neighbor are marked by historical grievances, Turkish violations of Greek air and maritime space, disputes over islands ownership, disagreements on the delimitation of their territorial waters and exclusive economic zones (EEZ), and divergent views on the Cyprus question. The latter two are particularly important. In November 2019, Turkey concluded a controversial agreement with the internationally-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya over the delimitation of their respective EEZs, which was widely criticized by Greece and others because it ignores the presence of Crete. Then, in August 2020 Greece and Egypt reached a similar deal, which conforms to international law but has alienated Turkey.