Turkey at loggerheads with EU over east Mediterranean 

Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, French President Emmanuel Macron, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, wearing face masks, speak with each other on the second day of an EU summit, in Brussels, Belgium October 16, 2020. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 16 October 2020

Turkey at loggerheads with EU over east Mediterranean 

  • Turkey’s decision to resend its vessel, Oruc Reis, to contested waters off Greek islands to resume gas exploration has infuriated the EU
  • It has been given a week to reconsider its position and to return to dialogue before the EU decides on potential sanctions

ANKARA: Turkey’s confrontation with Greece in the east Mediterranean has intensified, following accusations from powerful EU member states that Ankara was “provoking” Brussels with its acts.

Its decision to resend its vessel, Oruc Reis, to contested waters off Greek islands to resume gas exploration has infuriated the EU, and the bloc’s leaders discussed the crisis on Friday.

“The European Council urges Turkey to reverse these actions and work for the easing of tensions in a consistent and sustained manner,” a final meeting report said.

On Thursday, Turkey was given a week to reconsider its position and to return to dialogue before the EU decides on potential sanctions. These are expected to be deferred to its December summit. 

“Turkey remains consistent in its aggressive behavior,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Thursday at the opening of the EU Summit in Brussels.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Charles Ellinas, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had missed a good opportunity by sending back the Oruc Reis.

“By doing so he snapped the EU and particularly Germany that put so much into bringing Greece and Turkey back from confrontation into discussions,” he told Arab News, saying that he did not expect the EU to go much further for the time being. 

“They will still give Ankara time, possibly to the start of December, to return to the original plans and commence discussions with Greece. This is the preferred way forward by the EU but, if aggressive actions continue beyond that, then the EU will be forced to act.” 

He said that Greece would not be drawn into a naval confrontation but would pursue all other avenues to resist Turkey's actions, and that only negotiations could lead to a resolution. But it was unclear how serious Erdogan was in wanting a resolution or if he was determined to stick to his guns for domestic political reasons.

“Especially as seismic surveys for hydrocarbons are nothing but an excuse,” Ellinas added. “Not only (as) these cannot take place effectively with so many warships around the Oruc Reis, but the likelihood of finding hydrocarbons is very small.”

Using maritime disputes in the east Mediterranean as leverage may be a strategy for the Turkish government to bolster domestic support ahead of any snap elections amid a worsening economy and the COVID-19 pandemic, regardless of what impact these actions may have on EU relations.

“With regard to the return of the Oruc Reis to disputed waters even Germany, who has adopted a more balanced and moderate view with regard to the conflict between Turkey and Greece, has the perception that Turkey has duped the EU on this issue,” Gallia Lindenstrauss, senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel, told Arab News.

Germany has tried to broker a de-escalation in the eastern Mediteranean, but Turkey’s recently increasing assertiveness in the region has weakened support for any diplomatic initiative.

Lindenstrauss believed that Ankara wanted to negotiate.

“But it wants to come to the negotiations from a position of strength. Clearly its provocative actions in different arenas are meant to give it such an advantage, but it is not clear that indeed Turkey feels strengthened enough at this point to stop the escalation. The Turkish actions are causing a strong backlash that will also at some point force the Turkish side to moderate its actions.”

Turkey has also been aggravating its relations with other Western partners, namely the US. On Friday it fired a missile to test out a Russian-made air defense system.


Court orders authorities to reveal Israeli citizenship criteria to Palestinian Jerusalemites

Updated 26 November 2020

Court orders authorities to reveal Israeli citizenship criteria to Palestinian Jerusalemites

  • Without Israeli citizenship, residents of East Jerusalem could not obtain an Israeli passport, vote in national elections, or work in state government jobs
  • Vast majority of Jerusalem’s 330,000 stateless Palestinians have not applied

AMMAN: An Israeli court has forced state authorities to reveal the criteria that need to be met for Palestinian Jerusalem youth to become citizens of Israel.

The judicial order will mean that approximately 20,000 Palestinians aged between 18 and 21 living in East Jerusalem will now know the requirements when petitioning for Israeli citizenship, which is not automatically granted to them as residents of the city.

The vast majority of Jerusalem’s 330,000 stateless Palestinians have not applied, nor have the desire, to become Israelis. But the court decision should in future make the application process easier for those interested in carrying an Israeli passport and having the protection of the Israeli government regarding their legal status.

Jerusalem attorney, Mohammed Dahdal, who has practiced civil and human rights law for more than 30 years, noted that without Israeli citizenship, residents of East Jerusalem could not obtain an Israeli passport, vote in national elections, or work in state government jobs, among other things.

However, they did pay taxes to Israel and received social benefits such as national insurance, unemployment payments, and healthcare coverage.

Dahdal told Arab News that after 1988, when Jordan disengaged from the West Bank, which included East Jerusalem, Jerusalemites became stateless citizens. He said the ruling had come about after a Palestinian from Jerusalem had appealed to the court after revealing a loophole in the law.

He noted that the court decision, published by the Israeli Ministry of the Interior, made four conditions to ensure receipt of an Israeli passport. “That the applicant has no other citizenship, that they were born in Israel (for Israel, East and West Jerusalem are both parts of Israel), that the applicant is between 18 and 21 years old, and has lived continuously in Israel during the five years preceding applying for citizenship.”

The lawyer added that the Israeli government had fought in court to have the criteria for citizenship kept under wraps.

Former Jordanian member of parliament, Audeh Kawwas, who was on Wednesday appointed as a member of the Jordanian Senate, told Arab News: “If the aim is to solve the statelessness issue of Jerusalemites, I am for it and I have spoken about it (as a committee member) in the World Council of Churches.

“However, if this is an attempt to disenfranchise Palestinians and to make the city more Israeli, then I am totally opposed.”

Hazem Kawasmi, a community activist in Jerusalem, told Arab News that many young Palestinian Jerusalemites were in a desperate situation, as no government or institution was taking care of them and their needs.

He said: “They are living under occupation with daily harassment from the police and Israeli intelligence and face all kinds of racism and enmity.

“Israeli citizenship helps them get high-skilled jobs and it is a prerequisite for many jobs. It helps them travel for tourism or work to Europe and the US without the cumbersome, complicated procedures of getting visas, that is if they get it at all.

“Finally, Israeli citizenship makes the youth feel safe not to lose their residency in Jerusalem and movement and work in Israel,” he added.

Khalil Assali, a member of the Jerusalem Waqf and an observer of Jerusalem affairs, told Arab News that he was doubtful that Israel would speed up the process for granting Israeli citizenship. “They have made this move to show their newly established Arab friends that they are acting democratically.”

Hijazi Risheq, head of the Jerusalem Merchants’ committee, told Arab News that the Israelis were looking for ways to turn the city into a Jewish one. By giving citizenship to youth between the ages of 18 and 21, Israel was aiming to deter them from carrying out hostile acts against Israel and keep them away from the Palestinian National Authority and its security forces, he said.

Jerusalem-based human rights activist, Rifaat Kassis, said: “The idea that Jerusalem is Arab has become an empty slogan. Meanwhile, Israeli racism has become the overriding power that forces Jerusalemites trying to have a dignified life with their families to live under difficult conditions.”