Sea of troubles: Tensions flare across Mediterranean as world powers jockey for power

By Guy Taylor – The Washington Times – Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The Mediterranean — an on-again, off-again geopolitical hot spot since before the pyramids were built — is emerging anew as a sea of division and instability, with powers including Russia, China, Turkey and Israel jostling aggressively for influence, natural resources and military advantage.

Moscow is eyeing a possible military base along the oil-rich shores of Libya. China is seeking investment deals across the region. Turkey is clashing with NATO partner Greece over drilling rights and militarized islands. Newly discovered offshore natural gas deposits have nations scrambling to stake their claims.

Even the Trump administration on Wednesday partially lifted an arms embargo with Cyprus in what was widely interpreted as a shot across Turkey’s bow.

Analysts generally agree that NATO is failing to ease regional tensions. The U.S., despite multiple interests, lacks leverage in many of the disputes, with President Trump accelerating a U.S. pullback begun under President Obama that opened a power vacuum that others are now scrambling to fill.

While a range of unsavory players are making moves — Iran, Hezbollah and the Islamic State are among those seeking to exploit the situation — many in Europe and Washington are pointing the finger at Turkey for escalating the crisis by threatening to use force to take possession of natural gas finds beneath a string of Mediterranean islands that most in Europe say belongs to Greece.

The two NATO member states are now locked in a dangerous maritime standoff that is shaking the alliance to its core, with mediation attempts by Germany and others in the European Union so far going nowhere while the Trump administration warily monitors the situation.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that Mr. Trump has held private discussions with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and that the White House is “urging everyone to stand down.” (Click to Source)

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