The Turkish Heritage Organization hosted a teleconference on “Mediterranean Security Policy and Implications” with Former German Ambassador to NATO, Joachim Bitterlich, Retired Turkish Admiral and Director of Maritime Forum at Koc University, Cem Gurdeniz, and Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council and Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia, Matthew Bryza.
Cem Gurdeniz began the discussion by expressing that the Eastern Mediterranean question for Turkey is mainly centered on the “Blue Motherland.” Turkey contends that half of the Aegean Sea and east of the east coast of Crete belongs to Turkey. He goes on to point out that Greece and Greek Cypriots are making decisions without the consultation of Turkey or Turkish Cypriots. He acknowledges Turkey’s right to defend Turkey as well as Turkish Cypriots. Gurdeniz also states that Turkey is helping Tripoli maintain its political integrity and is not involved in any combat missions. He says Turkey is only present to help with training and strategy for the Government of National Accord, the only UN-recognized political body in Libya.
Next, Joachim Bitterlich discussed the EU perspective on Mediterranean geopolitics. His main message was that countries should act in a politically responsible matter. He expressed that he understood Turkish interests, but other countries have their own interests as well and that it is never too late for peaceful cooperation. He cautioned against Turkish intervention in Libya as he expressed understanding for Turkey wanting to help Libya but questioned if Turkey is really able to help the Tripoli government. He does not foresee a successful ceasefire.
Finally, Ambassador Matthew Bryza discussed how the U.S. views Turkey being in Libya and Turkey’s cooperation with Russia regarding the situation. Bryza predicts that the ceasefire decided by Erdogan and Putin for January 12, will be seen as a positive by the US. He acknowledges a difference in Turkey’s foreign policy from being somewhat more isolationist to having a more “normal” foreign policy joining the rest of the world in asserting its right to pursue its own interests.