For Turkey, a New Chapter in an Old Rivalry

For Turkey, a New Chapter in an Old Rivalry
Presidency Press Service via AP, Pool

Turkey and Greece, two of the Mediterranean’s greatest rivals, have long sparred over dominance of the region. The center of gravity of this competition has been Cyprus, an island split between its Greek and Turkish occupants. The island has immense geostrategic value, sitting at the crossing of the Eastern Mediterranean’s main sea lanes, regional energy markets and trade routes. Control of Cyprus would give a country access to the island’s valuable natural gas reserves and exploratory drilling rights, helping it project itself as the dominant Eastern Mediterranean power. It’s for this reason that Turkey and Greece have accelerated their push to defend their maritime claims in the region. They have done so by employing two competing concepts that attempt to revive their imperial pasts: the Blue Homeland, a notion that harkens back to the Ottoman Empire’s glory days and that Turkey has used to justify expanding its reach farther into the Mediterranean Sea; and the Megali Idea, which implies Greek reestablishment of the old contours of the Byzantine Empire. These concepts are not just rhetorical; they are part of one of the most complex, entangled geopolitical rivalries today.

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