US, EU to Work ‘Hand-in-Hand’ in Eastern Mediterranean

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European Union (EU) and the United States (USA) have announced to work together on issues of economic, human rights, security, multilateralism, de-escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean, and relations with Turkey, Russia and China.

The announcement came following the meeting of EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Brussels where they discussed wide-ranging foreign policy and security issues.

Mediterranean hotspot (red) & Eastern Mediterranean crisis (yellow)

“It’s a good move to coordinate a unified policy so as not to cause confusion and send wrong signals,” Khaled Almaeena, a Saudi Political and Media analyst says.

According to an Asia-Pacific based analyst specializing in Sino-US relations, the USA is determined to extend its systemic primacy – or “global leadership” into the indefinite future. “It perceives very serious challenges from a growing China, and a Sino-Russian alliance,” he says. In his view, “to counteract against these threats, the US is boosting alliances and strategic partnerships.”

“The EU is the first partner of choice, and Secretary of State Blinken has been meeting with his EU counterpart to coordinate action vis-a-vis both China and Russia. We are seeing results of these efforts.”

The EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell also said they will also continue to work on the US’s return to the Iran nuclear deal.

Webinar on Eastern Mediterranean Crisis: Speaking at a webinar, on the Eastern Mediterranean crisis, Laury Haytayan, the Middle East and North Africa director at the Natural Resource Governance Institute, said that the most complex issue is linked to maritime borders, not just between Turkey and Greece but between many different countries, such as Lebanon and Israel as well as Syria.

She said these issues pose challenges in terms of security to the region, as well as to the oil and gas sectors, while the new dimension of the Russian presence in the region adds another complexity to the mix.

“There is a lot of potential in the Eastern Mediterranean,” she said. “But, at the same time, you have a lot of problems and complexities you need to deal with altogether and avoid alienating parties or playing divisive cards.”

For his part, Alexandros Zachariades, head of research for 89 London, an LSE-based think tank and an expert on the Eastern Mediterranean, said the withdrawal of America from the region, especially during the Barack Obama and Donald Trump administrations, has created a vacuum that has coincided with an expanded Russian presence.

Keeping Greek-Turkish tensions in mind, he said Washington’s regional role will be key.

“Currently and luckily, Greece and Turkey are talking to each other. The ongoing negotiations mean tensions are low, but they will not lead to any sort of breakthrough in solving the maritime issue that they have had since the 1970s,” Zachariades said.

“The US is now the only party that can keep those two sides talking and also push them to find solutions on the issue of Cyprus.”

Looking to the future, Haytayan said the East Med Gas Forum can cater to the regional energy market, with the demand for gas increasing from 0.3 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) per month to 0.6 Tcf and supply not keeping pace. To this end, she said the forum can play the role of a crucial platform for regional countries to come together to build a common infrastructure and frame appropriate oil and gas policies.