In November, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, signed an agreement with Libya’s official government in Tripoli, with which it shares a pro-Muslim Brotherhood orientation. The agreement recognizes Ankara’s economic rights and control over natural resources as extending deep into the Mediterranean Sea. It thus contradicts the claims of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF)—consisting of Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Italy, Greece, and Cyprus. Meanwhile, Turkey has also been backing Tripoli militarily in its civil war with the forces of Khalifa Haftar, who has the support of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, and France. Eran Lerman sees in Erdogan’s actions an attempt to push apart the EMGF while expanding his influence in Africa:
Israel’s interests, at this tense time vis-à-vis Iran—and for many other good reasons—require an effort to avoid a violent confrontation in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey may be hostile, but it is not yet an active enemy. Everything short of a military confrontation needs to be done, though, to deter Erdogan from establishing a barrier diagonally across the Mediterranean, barring Cyprus, Egypt, and Israel from connecting their gas infrastructure to Greece and hence to Europe.
While keeping a necessary low profile on Libyan internal affairs, Israel’s role should be focused upon working hand in hand with all EMGF partners, and in particular Greece and Cyprus. The latter have some influence on all three fronts—lobbying in the U.S.; using their EU status; and utilizing the links of common heritage that connect them to Russia.