The Mediterranean steps on the gas

The eastern Mediterranean, the Levant, is one of the oldest cultural regions on earth. Egyptians and Phoenicians, Greeks, Byzantines, Judaism and Christianity all have their roots here.

This historical significance has been somewhat lost sight of recently; in the times of the Cold War, the focus was on other areas, and only the eternal battle for the Holy Land reminded us of the great past.

Since 2009, however, something like a gold rush has set in when the first of three large gas fields was discovered, followed by two more in 2010 and 2011. The so-called energy triangle of Israel, Cyprus and Greece has since been pursuing the goal of jointly exploiting and selling these sources.

Of course, this process also attracted the attention of other neighbouring states, which are now also searching for these fields or, due to ambiguous regulations regarding the rights of use at sea, are asserting their claims to them.

To cut a long story short, seven states – Greece, Israel, Cyprus, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon and Syria – plus the internationally recognised government of Libya and the mostly unrecognised administrations of the Palestinian territories (via Gaza) and Northern Cyprus are involved in a multitude of conflicts. A wide variety of alliance combinations come into being and a simplification of the situation is not foreseeable at present.

In the course of increasing trade between East Asia and Europe, this region will again play an important role in world politics in the future. The conflicts over the gas fields could serve as a kind of fuse.

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