“النزاعات البحرية في شرق المتوسط”… يوضح طريق الحل السلمي للخلافات الحدودية

كتاب جديد أصدره الخبير في سياسة الطاقة رودي بارودي يحمل عنوان “النزاعات البحرية في شرق البحر الأبيض المتوسط: الطريق إلى الأمام Maritime Disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean: the Way Forward (مطبعة معهد بروكينغز)، يسلط الضوء على آلياتٍ عملية غالباً ما يتم تجاهلها ويمكنها أن تنزع فتيل التوترات وتساعد في إطلاق عملية التنقيب عن النفط والغاز بقيمة مليارات الدولارات. تحدد الآليات الإطار القانوني والديبلوماسي الواسع المتاح للبلدان التي تتطلع إلى حل الحدود المتنازع عليها في البحر قانونياً او حبياً. يستعرض بارودي في الكتاب ظهور “اتفاقية الأمم المتحدة لقانون البحار” وتأثيرها المتزايد، والتي أصبحت قواعدها ومعاييرها أساسا لجميع المفاوضات والاتفاقات البحرية تقريبا. ويشرح الكتاب أيضا كيف أن التقدم الذي أحرِز أخيرا في مجال العلم والتكنولوجيا، ولا سيما رسم الخرائط الدقيقة، قد وسّع نطاق المبادئ التوجيهية لاتفاقية الأمم المتحدة لقانون البحار لايجاد تسوية للمنازعات التي تستند إليها. وكما يشير العنوان، فإن النقاش في شرق البحر الأبيض المتوسط يدور حول الحدود البحرية للمنطقة والتي لا تزال من دون حل، علما ان الاكتشافات الأخيرة اكدت وجود كميات كبيرة من النفط والغاز، ما قد يؤدي ليس فقط إلى إبطاء تنمية الموارد المعنية (وإعادة استثمار العائدات للتصدي للفقر والتحديات الاجتماعية الأخرى)، بل يزيد خطر وقوع حرب أو أكثر. ومع ذلك، يلاحظ بارودي ان الحل العادل والمنصف قد يعمل على استعادة الثقة بين شعوب المنطقة. فاذا وافقت بلدان شرق المتوسط بموجب قواعد اتفاقية الأمم المتحدة لقانون البحار على تسوية خلافاتها بشكل عادل ومنصف، فان “من شأن ذلك أن يعطي فرصة لإثبات أن هيكل الأمن الجماعي في فترة ما بعد الحرب العالمية الثانية لا يزال ليس فقط نهجا قابلا للتطبيق ولكن أيضا نهجاً حيوياً… ومن شأن ذلك أن يظهر للعالم بأسره أنه لا توجد عقبات كبيرة جدا، ولا عداوة متأصلة، ولا ذكريات مريرة بحيث يمكن التغلب عليها باتباع القواعد الأساسية التي انضمت إليها جميع الدول الأعضاء في الأمم المتحدة، وهي: تسوية النزاعات من دون عنف أو التهديد به”.
ويقدم الكتاب افكارا عامة ومحددة عن الادوات التي يمكن اعتمادها في المجال الديبلوماسي، وهي مساهمة مفيدة في وقت يتعرض مفهوم تعددية الأطراف برمته للاعتداء من بعض البلدان التي دافعت في ما مضى عن إنشائها. اضافة إلى ذلك، فان اسلوب المؤلِّف الجذاب يجعل الكتاب في متناول جميع الاختصاصيين – علماء التاريخ والجغرافيا، إلى القانونيين ورسم الخرائط – ومثيرا لاهتمام الأكاديميين وصنّاع السياسات والمهندسين والقراء .تتكون خلفية الكاتب بارودي من أربعة عقود في قطاع الطاقة، ساعد خلالها في تصميم السياسات للشركات والحكومات والمؤسسات المتعددة الطرف، بما في ذلك الأمم المتحدة والمفوضية الأوروبية وصندوق النقد الدولي والبنك الدولي. وتراوح مجالات خبرته ما بين النفط والغاز والبتروكيماويات والطاقة وأمن الطاقة وإصلاح قطاع الطاقة إلى الآثار البيئية والحماية وتجارة الكربون والخصخصة والبنية التحتية. يشغل حالياً منصب الرئيس التنفيذي لشركة الطاقة والبيئة القابضة، وهي شركة استشارية مستقلة مقرها الدوحة، قطر. وتم العمل على الكتاب خلال سنوات من البحث الشخصي لبارودي، مع تحرير ديبرا ل. كاغان (زميل الطاقة المتميزة، شبكة القيادة عبر الأطلسي) وساشا توبيرس (نائبة الرئيس التنفيذي الأول، شبكة القيادة عبر الأطلسي). وتنشر شبكة القيادة عبر الأطلسي، وهي رابطة دولية تضم الممارسين وقادة القطاع الخاص ومحللي السياسات الذين يعملون على ضمان مواكبة العلاقات بين الولايات المتحدة والاتحاد الأوروبي في عالم سريع العولمة، “النزاعات البحرية في شرق البحر الأبيض المتوسط: الطريق إلى الأمام”، والذي كان متاحًا في الأصل ككتاب إلكتروني، من قِبل مطبعة مؤسسة بروكينغز، التي تأسست عام 1916 كدار نشر للأبحاث من قِبل العلماء المرتبطين بمعهد بروكينغز، الذي يُنظر اليه على نطاق واسع أنه من أكثر مراكز الفكر احترامًا في الولايات المتحدة.



Le droit de la mer offre une solution pacifique au litige gréco-turc

La Grèce et la Turquie se livrent à nouveau à un jeu dangereux sur l’île grecque de Kastellorizo, située à deux kilomètres des côtes turques. Si les deux pays sont depuis longtemps en désaccord sur l’île, le différend actuel concerne l’envoi dans cette zone, à plusieurs reprises depuis août dernier, d’un navire d’exploration d’hydrocarbures turc, l’Oruç Reis. Cependant, la récurrence de ces tensions découle en fin de compte de l’absence de traité sur les frontières maritimes entre les deux pays.Ce manque de clarté a contribué à des frictions pendant des décennies, et pas seulement sur l’île de Kastellorizo. En fait, les deux pays revendiquent des zones économiques exclusives (ZEE) qui se chevauchent de manière significative, rendant impossible tout projet qui viserait à exploiter pleinement les ressources sous-marines de la zone. Par conséquent, à moins que les deux pays ne soient pleinement préparés à résoudre leurs différends de manière pacifique, des crises comme celle que nous connaissons actuellement continueront de se produire, augmentant à chaque fois les risques de conflit ouvert.

Montée des tensions

Les enjeux ont crû significativement ces dernières années, principalement en raison de la découverte d’importants gisements d’hydrocarbures en plusieurs endroits de la Méditerranée orientale. Certains observateurs avertissent que les relations entre les deux pays sont à leur plus bas niveau depuis 1974, lorsque les forces turques ont envahi Chypre à la suite d’un coup d’État des Chypriotes grecs visant à unir l’île à la junte militaire alors en place à Athènes.

Au lieu d’engager un dialogue productif entre elles, Athènes et Ankara ont toutes deux mené des efforts diplomatiques parallèles visant à étayer leurs revendications maritimes respectives. Les Turcs ont signé un protocole d’accord sur les ZEE avec la Libye (17 novembre 2019), tandis que les Grecs ont signé un accord sur les ZEE avec l’Égypte (6 août 2020). Aucun de ces accords n’a cependant été ratifié, ce qui signifie qu’ils ne sont pas encore en vigueur. Même si une ratification a lieu, il reste à voir si ces accords seront déposés auprès de la Division des Nations unies pour les affaires maritimes et du droit de la mer (Doalos), à laquelle les États côtiers confient généralement leurs traités frontaliers pour une plus large diffusion. Par conséquent, si ces documents bilatéraux peuvent être utilisés pour réglementer les interactions entre leurs signataires respectifs, il reste à voir si et comment ils peuvent être conciliés avec les délimitations revendiquées par leurs autres voisins.

Pour toutes ces raisons, la nécessité de mettre fin à ces coups de poker périodiques devient chaque jour plus urgente. Comme pour souligner les dangers qui en découlent, le 12 août, un des navires de guerre turcs qui escortaient l’Oruç Reis a été impliqué dans une collision mineure avec une frégate grecque envoyée pour suivre le relevé.

Droit et technique

Cependant, en dépit de l’inimitié de longue date entre la Grèce et la Turquie, le droit offre aujourd’hui des moyens simples de résoudre leur différend. La Convention des Nations unies sur le droit de la mer (CNUDM) établit un ensemble complet de règles pour la résolution juste et équitable de ces différends, et au fil du temps, ces règles sont devenues partie intégrante du droit international. Cela signifie que même les pays qui ne sont pas signataires de la CNUDM peuvent invoquer (et invoquent déjà) les principes de la convention dans toutes sortes d’interactions, notamment lors des procédures devant les tribunaux internationaux, les processus d’arbitrage et la diplomatie bilatérale et multilatérale. De plus, les récents progrès technologiques ont révolutionné la précision avec laquelle les zones litigieuses – sur terre ou en mer – peuvent être définies et délimitées.

Ensemble, le droit et la technique ont donc éliminé une grande partie des spéculations qui pouvaient exister – et donc une grande partie des risques – lors des négociations pour la résolution des différends maritimes. C’est cette approche que la Grèce et la Turquie doivent adopter pour promouvoir leurs intérêts respectifs tout en respectant l’obligation qui est la leur, en tant qu’États membres des Nations unies, de régler les différends de manière pacifique. Leurs divergences sont réelles et certains détails sont complexes, mais les principes de la CNUDM constituent une solution éprouvée, à tel point qu’ils ont joué un rôle central dans chacune des deux dernières douzaines de résolutions de différends maritimes par arbitrage, verdict d’un tribunal ou traité international.

Ces tensions ne disparaîtront pas, ni ne pourront être résolues, sans diplomatie et sans dialogue. Le statu quo est très instable, et aucune des parties ne peut imposer sa volonté à l’autre, du moins pas sans subir des pertes humaines et matérielles inacceptables.

Il est très probable qu’une demande de dialogue et de diplomatie trouve une oreille réceptive du côté de leurs partenaires internationaux. Les États-Unis et l’Union européenne ont en effet tous deux intérêt à éviter une plus grande instabilité en Méditerranée orientale, et les Nations unies ont investi beaucoup de temps et d’efforts dans plusieurs tentatives pour trouver une solution au volet chypriote du conflit gréco-turc.

Outre l’évolution de la technologie et celle des précédents juridiques qui permettent une solution basée sur la CNUDM, sans parler des avantages économiques que les deux pays pourraient tirer de la liberté d’exploiter librement leurs ressources, il y a une autre raison d’être optimiste quant à la réussite d’une poussée en faveur de la paix à l’heure actuelle.

L’heure ne devrait pas être aux discours enflammés et aux postures agressives. Les mécanismes pour une solution équitable sont à portée de main. La Grèce et la Turquie doivent s’engager dans un processus pacifique et défendre leurs positions jusqu’à ce qu’elles parviennent à un accord, et leurs alliés doivent les aider à le faire.




Lebanon sets starting point for sea border negotiations with Israel

BEIRUT (Reuters) – President Michel Aoun on Thursday specified Lebanon’s starting point for demarcating its sea border with Israel under U.S.-mediated talks, in the first public confirmation of a stance sources say increases the size of the disputed area.

Israel and Lebanon launched the negotiations last month with delegations from the long-time foes convening at a U.N. base to try to agree on the border that has held up hydrocarbon exploration in the potentially gas-rich area.

A presidency statement said Aoun instructed the Lebanese team that the demarcation line should start from the land point of Ras Naqoura as defined under a 1923 agreement and extend seaward in a trajectory that a security source said extends the disputed area to some 2,300 square km (888 sq miles) from around 860 sq km.

Israel’s energy minister, overseeing the talks with Lebanon, said Lebanon had now changed its position seven times and was contradicting its own assertions.

“Whoever wants prosperity in our region and seeks to safely develop natural resources must adhere to the principle of stability and settle the dispute along the lines that were submitted by Israel and Lebanon at the United Nations,” Yuval Steinitz said.

Any deviation, Steinitz said, would lead to a “dead end”.

Last month sources said the two sides presented contrasting maps for proposed borders. They said the Lebanese proposal extended farther south than the border Lebanon had years before presented to the United Nations and that of the Israeli team pushed the boundary farther north than Israel’s original position.

The talks, the culmination of three years of diplomacy by Washington, are due to resume in December.

Israel pumps gas from huge offshore fields but Lebanon, which has yet to find commercial gas reserves in its own waters, is desperate for cash from foreign donors as it faces the worst economic crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war.

Additional reporting by Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Janet Lawrence




Athens responds to US State Department’s claim that Greek air space is only 6 nautical miles

Regarding the report by the US State Department, which was forwarded to the US Congress on March 18 and in the framework of the provisions of the “Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act,” diplomatic sources pointed out that the borders of Greece’s territorial waters, as well as the maritime borders between Greece and Turkey, have been clearly defined for years on the basis of international law and are not in any dispute.

In particular, they stated in response to the State Department that regarding the Southeastern Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, the maritime borders have been defined by the Italy-Turkey Agreement signed in Ankara on 4 January 1932, as well as the minutes which was signed in Ankara on December 28, 1932.

Greece, as the successor state under the Treaty of Paris of 1947, gained sovereignty over the Dodecanese without any change in the maritime borders, as agreed between Italy and Turkey.

Regarding the sea borders in Thrace (up to the point of a distance of three nautical miles from the Evros Delta), they emphasise that these were defined by the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 and the Athens Protocol of 1926.

Finally, regarding the sea borders between the above two areas (from Thrace to Dodecanese), where the territorial waters of Greece and Turkey intersect, they pointed out that the sea borders follow the middle line between the Greek islands and islets and the opposite Turkish coasts.

The same diplomatic sources noted that Greece’s external borders, including its territorial waters, are at the same time the external borders of the European Union.

The recently released State Department report states that Greece claims an airspace that extends up to 10 nautical miles and a territorial sea of up to 6 nautical miles, but that “under international law, a country’s airspace coincides with its territorial sea.”

“The US thus recognizes an airspace up to 6 nautical miles consistent with territorial sea. Greece and the US do not share a view on the extent of Greece’s airspace,” the report said.

The State Department report adds that although Athens currently claims up to a 6-nautical-mile territorial sea in the Aegean, “Greece and its neighbors have not agreed on boundary delimitation in those areas where their lawful maritime entitlements overlap.”

“Lack of such delimitation means there is no clarity on the extent of Greece’s territorial sea and corresponding airspace in these areas rendering any assessment of total violations not feasible,” the report said.

The State Department report said Washington encourages Greece and Turkey “to resolve outstanding bilateral maritime boundary issues peacefully and in accordance with international law.”




Maritime Disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean: The Way Forward by Dr. Roudi Baroudi

Now available in English at Brookings Institution Press.
Coming soon in Arabic, French, and Greek.

Using satellite imagery, international law, and geodesic research, Roudi Baroudi walks readers through a road map for peaceful and responsible resolution of maritime boundary disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean. The volume draws upon the United Nations and its associated treaties, courts, and other institutions that have developed bodies of law and procedures to facilitate negotiation. Dr. Baroudi points to rapid advances of science and technology as the means to take the guesswork out of boundary delineation, making this route more reliable and user-friendly than ever before.

An expert commentary and seminal work.”
– Ambassador John B. Craig, Senior Fellow, Transatlantic Leadership Network; former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush for Combatting Terrorism, and former United States Ambassador to Oman

Baroudi makes a powerful case for compromise so that the states of the region can move beyond their costly disputes and reap the rewards of cooperation. Dr. Baroudi’s approach has much to teach us and will hopefully contribute to peaceful progress, if only the opposing sides will listen.
– Andrew Novo, Associate Professor of Strategic Studies at the National Defense University

…The countries of the region, as well as the United States and the European Union, should embrace Baroudi’s approach to reduce frictions and realize the benefits of this energy bounty.
– Douglas Hengel, Professional Lecturer in the Energy, Resources and Environment Program Johns Hopkins University, SAIS and Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund


Order a copy




Mediterranean crisis calls for ‘civilized solution’, energy expert tells EU-Arab gathering

‘Do we want the benefits of our own rightful shares more than we want to deny the same benefits to our neighbors?’

ATHENS, Greece: The latest legal and technological tools can resolve rival claims in the Mediterranean without anyone firing a shot, a veteran of the region’s energy industry told a conference in Athens on Monday.

“We have both the legal mechanisms and the high-precision mapping technologies to draw up fair and equitable boundaries at sea,” Roudi Baroudi said in a speech to the 5th European Union Arab World Summit. “That means that countries in the Mediterranean region can settle their differences amicably, setting aside the costly and ultimately self-defeating ways of war.”

Appearing via Zoom from Doha, Qatar, Baroudi said the region had a long history of spawning great civilizations, but that each of these had squandered their good fortune by make war on their neighbors.

Thanks to huge deposits of natural gas having been found beneath the Mediterranean, he noted, “the region faces another crossroads”, largely because “the vast majority of maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean remain unresolved.” With neighboring states laying claim to the same undersea real estate, Baroudi said the resulting “patchwork of claims and counter-claims” only served to hamper all parties by jeopardizing their respective offshore oil and gas activities.

With more than four decades in the business – including significant experience in both the public and private sectors – Baroudi has become a leading proponent of the East Med’s emergence as a major energy producer. Having long argued that safe and responsible exploitation of the resource in question would allow regional countries to make historic gains, both at home and abroad, his most recent interventions have focused on how to draw fair and equitable boundaries at sea. In fact, his book “Maritime Disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean: The Way Forward” is widely regarded as the most authoritative guide to the current situation.

Currently serving as CEO of Energy and Environment Holding, an independent consultancy based in Doha, Baroudi said all parties need to be honest with themselves by answering single question: “do we want the benefits of our own rightful shares more than we want to deny the same benefits to our neighbors?”

Those that want to focus on getting their share, he argued, need to put their faith in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Roudi Baroudi is CEO of Energy and Environment Holding, an independent consultancy based in Doha.

He also is the author of “Maritime Disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean: the Way Forward”, published earlier this year by the Transatlantic Leadership Network and distributed by the Brookings Institution Press.




5th EU- Arab World Summit – Maritime Borders in the Mediterranean: the Cradle of Civilization Deserves a Civilized Solution




FOR TURKEY AND GREECE, SHARED TRAGEDY COULD SAVE LIVES IN THE LONG RUN

By Roudi Baroudi

The deadly earthquake that struck Greece and Turkey on Friday has brought out the best in the two countries’ leaders, who have exchanged not only condolences, but also offers of assistance.

Like other natural disasters, this one showed no regard for national borders. Most of the casualties and damage took place in the Turkish city of Izmir, but the epicenter was located beneath the seabed in Greek waters, and the two Greek youths who perished did so on the island of Samos, which lies less than 2 kilometers off the Turkish coast. Far from discriminating between the two neighbors, then, the quake was a (literally) jarring reminder that their fates are inextricably intertwined.

And yet, the mutual goodwill expressed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsokakis owed most of its newsworthiness to the acrimony which has otherwise defined their relationship of late: most of their recent exchanges have involved accusations and even thinly veiled threats over rival territorial claims at sea.

The dispute is not new, but in recent years its urgency has grown exponentially due to discoveries of enormous oil and (mostly) gas deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean. Far from eliciting offers to exchange resources and expertise – in a deepwater setting that will require massive upfront investment and world-class technical capabilities – the two sides have approached the matter as zero-sum game. Each is behaving as though any gains it achieves can only come by inflicting equal-size losses on the other, but given the realities of the dispute, nothing could be further from the truth.

Already, the mere fact of their having not progressed to negotiate a maritime border treaty – one allowing both parties to get on with the businesses of exploration and development in their respective zones, and perhaps in some joint areas as well – is costing a lot of money, and not just in terms of time lost to unnecessary delay. The absence of an agreement also means that whenever the Turks send their seismic research vessel, the Oruc Reis, to study the seabed in disputed waters, they also have to bear the cost of an armed escort. They may take solace in the fact that the Greek are also paying heavily to monitor their activities, but there are no winners in such a contest. Both countries are only ensuring that whoever eventually finds, extracts, and sells the resources in question, the venture will have been less profitable than it should have been.

Similar obstacles apply to just about any scenario in which Athens and Ankara fail to delineate a mutually acceptable border and try to act unilaterally. Investors loath uncertainty, so any offshore blocks they auction off will fetch less money than they would if the dispute were settled. Underwriters are equally suspicious of oil and gas operations in potential war zones, which means that even if insurance can be obtained for ships, drilling rigs, and any other equipment, the price is likely to be exorbitant – and this is not to mention the cost of liability coverage relating to life and limb, environmental consequences, etc.

Why would anyone opt for such a murky, risky, and uncertain venture when a much clearer, safer, and surer one is so close at hand? From any conventional business perspective, the far superior route is to negotiate a mutually beneficial solution that gives both parties the ability to make plans and implement them without fear of delay or interference.

A generation or two ago, there might have been an excuse for one or both countries to question the advisability of an early settlement, but not anymore: not when the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) sets out clear standards for the fair and equitable resolution of maritime boundary disputes; not when satellite imagery and data processing technologies allow virtually all nation-states to obtain high-precision maps ahead of time; not when we have such an extensive background of previous cases and established precedent to indicate in advance what an eventual settlement will look like.

If they have not already done so, both countries can commission a company like Fugro to carry out a Law of the Sea study and, within a few weeks, know within a few centimeters where their maritime boundaries should lie. If there are compelling reasons to alter the legal or data inputs that produce these results, they can negotiate swaps and/or designate certain areas for joint management or even shared sovereignty. Whatever the solution, it will be better than the bellicose rhetoric and high-seas brinkmanship on which they have recently relied.

Right now the priority has to be on search and rescue, saving any lives that can still be saved, taking care of those made homeless by the quake, and determining the full extent of the damage caused by the quake. Nothing should delay this process.

Once the danger has passed and the vulnerable have been secured, however, Greece and Turkey should follow their own example in this post-quake period by moving to defuse tensions and start talking about how to resolve their differences quickly, practically, and peacefully. Why waste any more time, expend any more resources, or risk any more lives when a negotiated solution is so easily obtainable?

Roudi Baroudi, a four-decade veteran of the energy business and CEO of Doha-based Energy and Environment Holding, is the author of “Maritime Disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean: The Way Forward”, published by the Transatlantic Leadership Network and distributed by the Brookings Institution Press.

Roudi Baroudi is CEO of Energy and Environment Holding, an independent consultancy based in Doha.
He also is the author of “Maritime Disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean: the Way Forward”, published earlier this year by the Transatlantic Leadership Network and distributed by the Brookings Institution Press.




How to Fix East Med Border Disputes

The Eastern Mediterranean is once again at the center of what can go wrong when countries fail to resolve decades-old disputes over offshore Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). On the face of it, the latest Greece-Turkey skirmish makes little sense now other than playing to domestic audiences and putting down markers to ensure a future piece of whatever this natural gas-rich part of the world has to offer. In today’s brutal economic climate, few energy companies are lining up to undertake new projects, which means it will take longer for actual production to begin under the best circumstances. What’s more, Turkey may not have the financial wherewithal or capacity to do the exploration and development work on its own, and no private energy company is likely to invest serious capital in a project that can be tied up for years by competing EEZ claims. This maximalist approach to solving maritime disputes will not work. Equitable results, perhaps based on the equidistance principle — a methodology endorsed by the 1994 UN Convention for Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) — would be the best way forward for settling the Greece-Turkey maritime boundary dispute.

The development of Israel’s huge Leviathan natural gas field is a model studied closely by others in this region. Texas-based Noble Energy, which is now merging with Chevron, discovered Leviathan 10 years ago and quickly recognized that it was not only a world-class field, but that it needed an EEZ treaty for development to proceed without being contested by Cyprus. Noble carried out its own internal Law of the Sea desktop study, which became the basis for Israel’s EEZ treaty with Cyprus. It also issued an ultimatum to the Israelis that no further exploration would take place until the EEZ deal was finalized. This pressure from Noble not only prompted the Israeli government to conclude a treaty with Cyprus, it did so in a document that explicitly states Israel must adhere to UNCLOS rules despite not being a signatory of the treaty. That in itself is an enormous change with broad economic implications.

While four of the seven recognized coastal states (Greece, Turkey, Syria, Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt), are not signatories to the treaty, there is now a general understanding that even non-signatories to UNCLOS are increasingly ready to abide by its principles in settling disputes. The real threat to the East Mediterranean’s prospects as an energy hub is politics, specifically the zero-sum games that have constricted and warped regional interactions. The best way to proceed is an orderly process in which Mediterranean maritime boundaries are fully delineated and individual countries are free to develop the resources within their respective EEZs. The UNCLOS contains a comprehensive rulebook for the fair and equitable resolution of such disputes by subjecting them to consistent legal standards and detailed scientific observations.

Necessary Conditions

Given the UNCLOS, the obvious question is: Why are we still talking about unresolved maritime boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean? The short answer is that until recently few of the necessary conditions were in place. Since its inception, both technology and case law have evolved. Old colonial-era charts were highly unreliable, with depictions of even easily observable shoreline features off by a kilometer or more. New, accurate technological mapping has removed much of the guesswork. The outcome of any legal process based on UNCLOS can now be predicted with considerable reliability.

The Israel-Cyprus treaty has itself been challenged by Lebanon, which has alleged that its neighbors used faulty coordinates for its shoreline border with Israel, thereby mistakenly locating the offshore “tripoint” among the three countries’ respective EEZs several kilometers from where it should be. But Israel has agreed to be bound by UNCLOS standards, making resolution possible. The situation also makes clear that precision mapping technology — now at the disposal of any government willing to pay for a Law of the Sea study — has finally established a clear, objective basis for discussion.

In what could be a valuable point for both Turkey and Greece, this crucial degree of accuracy, often down to sub-meter measurements, should make it easier for governments to sell any agreements they reach to their respective publics. It also leaves too little room for naysayers at home or abroad to accuse anyone of backing down or selling out. German efforts to reconcile the interests of Turkey and Greece are commendable, and with precision mapping accuracy both governments can reduce economic and political pressure while simultaneously demonstrating the potential advantages of reconciliation.

Clear Benefits

The Eastern Mediterranean’s emergence as an oil and gas hub promises a cure for the region’s poverty and instability. The first discoveries were located in uncontested waters off Egypt and Israel, so development was fairly straightforward. In addition, most of the deposits were in the form of natural gas, whose cleaner properties and growing ubiquity as a global commodity, may give it better medium- and long-term market prospects than oil.

These discoveries and others that could follow are critical for the growing economies in the region, which need greater energy diversity and independence. Commercial interest in these resources also remains strong. Noble’s East Mediterranean gas interests are considered one of the prize assets that Chevron was after in its bid. The energy majors already invested in offshore Cyprus, including the Exxon Mobil/Qatar Petroleum (QP) and Total/Eni consortia, have postponed — not canceled — exploratory drilling in their respective blocks. The involvement of QP is also a signal of long-term stability. As one of the world’s most deep-pocketed national oil companies, its gas strategy is measured in decades, as Energy Minister Saad al-Kaabi likes to say.

Even with the current extraordinary economic circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, for which few companies and governments were prepared, the East Med should remain attractive and financially appealing going forward. The resources are still there and, while their current market value has been diminished, the potential deposits are still highly prized assets whose development, extraction and sale can be expected to generate many hundreds of billions of dollars over several decades. Despite the increasing competitiveness of renewables, the ubiquity and low carbon profile of gas will keep it in the global energy mix for years to come.

Roudi Baroudi is CEO of Energy and Environment Holding, an independent consultancy in Doha. His recent book, “Maritime Disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean: The Way Forward,” is published by the Transatlantic Leadership Network and distributed by the Brookings Institution Press.

Debra Cagan is the Distinguished Energy Fellow at the Transatlantic Leadership Network. She is a former career US State Department and Defense Department official, having served from the Reagan to the Trump administrations.




MTV – Turkey-Greece conflict in eastern Mediterranean