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The Legal and Political Dimensions of the Eastern Mediterranean Crisis: What Is at Stake?

The main challenge in relation to Mediterranean gas is the distribution of potential gas reserves which inevitably entails delimitation of maritime borders. However, in the context of the Eastern Mediterranean, this is highly problematic mainly due to the status of the Greek islands along with their close proximity to the Turkish mainland and the failure in resolving the ‘Cyprus issue.’ There are two key questions in relation to the Eastern Mediterranean crisis: (i) What are the contesting claims over maritime border delimitation between Turkey, Greece, and the Greek Administration of Southern Cyprus with reference to the international law? (ii) Why has the Eastern Mediterranean dispute been politicized so much that it has drawn in countries far from the region? This article examines the legal and political dimensions of the Eastern Mediterranean crisis by analyzing the respective countries’ standpoints through the lens of international law along with the implications of earlier such disputes. The article also investigates the political dimensions of the crisis by looking into alliance formation and how existing political tensions in the region came to the surface in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Legal and Political Dimensions of the Eastern Mediterranean Crisis
A Greek navy boat is moored close to the tiny Greek island of Kastellorizo, just two kilometers off the South coast of Turkey (seen in the background), August 28, 2020. LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / AFP via Getty Images
 

 

 

Introduction

 

The Eastern Mediterranean, which has been a cradle to civilizations and of great geostrategic significance, has witnessed political disputes among the myriad political forces throughout history. The region’s geopolitical importance lies in its serving as a crossroads between Asia, Europe, and Africa, being located on critical trade routes connecting the East to the West and connected to the Atlantic Ocean, the Black Sea, and the Red Sea through the Straits of Gibraltar and Dardanelles, and the Suez Channel respectively.1 Hence, the region has also acted as a basin for constant cultural and economic interactions.

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