A more coherent common foreign policy agenda is needed to strengthen the strategic partnership of Athens – Jerusalem – Nicosia, points out Ephraim Inbar.
In recent years, Cyprus, Greece and Israel have significantly intensified their political, energy and military relations (photo, top, by Reuters/Murad Sezer).
The political leaders of the countries meet regularly and coordinate their energy policies, especially for gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean, writes the well-known Israeli professor Ephraim Inbar, in an article on the website of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS). , of which he is chairman and one of Israel’s leading security experts.
In addition, they established the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF), which includes Egypt, Italy, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority (PA). This became a regional cooperation platform for the development of natural gas fields in the Mediterranean.
In addition, the three states conduct various military exercises, improving their capabilities. Additional interactions in other areas cement this alignment, which has political and strategic ramifications. For example, he contributed to Turkey’s policy change towards the Abraham Accords and Israel.
A more coherent common foreign policy agenda is needed to enhance the strategic importance of the Athens-Jerusalem-Nicosia partnership. The first item on the agenda is to better coordinate with Washington to sensitize the United States to regional realities as it does not appear to have a coherent policy in this region.
Washington is obsessed with human rights in its approach to Egypt, the most important Arab state. In Libya it leans towards the Islamist elements. The culmination of the short-sighted approach was the cancellation of its support for the EastMed pipeline (for alleged environmental reasons), which was designed to transport energy to Europe, just weeks before the Ukraine war caused an energy crisis.
This policy needs better focus when approaching the region. As the US turns its attention to China for obvious reasons, the Eastern Mediterranean region will receive even less attention from the US administration. However, rising energy prices may slow the US withdrawal from the wider Middle East.
This period should be used to ensure a better US understanding of the value of tripartite alignment. President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to Israel is an opportunity to reinforce American understanding of the utility of its alignment in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The second topic on the common agenda concerns Egypt, a member of the EMGF and a historical rival of Turkey. Greece and Cyprus have developed military relations with Egypt due to security threats and to strengthen the defense of their interests in the Eastern Mediterranean.
However, Egypt is reluctant to follow the Greek alignment with Israel, despite the significant improvement in Cairo-Jerusalem relations. Efforts are needed to integrate Egypt into the emerging scheme. Its participation in this could be particularly beneficial for the four states.
The third common issue is Turkey, a revisionist power animated by neo-Ottoman and Islamist impulses. It has moderated its behavior for various reasons, but as long as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is its leader, the potential for mischief is high.
However, the US exit from the region and a weakened Russia provide greater freedom of action for Turkey and other regional powers.
The Ukraine war underscores Turkey’s geostrategic importance. Moreover, the US will remain reluctant to pressure Ankara in order to avoid its embrace with Russia. These developments could encourage Turkish adventurism. Containing Turkey will continue to be a major challenge.
A fourth common issue relates to the new West Asia Quad of the United States, India, Israel and the United Arab Emirates. New Delhi is attempting to build an alternative to China’s Belt and Road initiative, which connects India to the Mediterranean via the UAE and Israel.
Such an undertaking will endear itself to the participants in Washington. Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the Greek nations should promote this alternative.
Moreover, the establishment of this four-way cooperation will strengthen the Abrahamic Covenants, which are new and fragile. People in the Gulf have not yet understood the inherent advantages of recognizing Israel, the Jewish state. The Abraham Accords also depend on Israel fulfilling the expectation of ending the Iranian threat.
Ukraine reminded us that war is still a policy option even in Europe. The Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East are conflict-ridden and more aggressive regions than Europe.
Alas, international law and safeguards have proven ineffective in deterring aggressive states. This is no surprise to those who realize the eternally chaotic nature of the international system in which there is no international authority to maintain law and order.
This means that the states belonging to the Athens-Jerusalem-Nicosia line must prepare for war without illusions. While interstate alignment relations need to be strengthened, it is worth remembering that this is not an alliance.
Israel should be the model and its doctrine of self-reliance should find imitators. Every state is required to invest in defense and strengthen military capabilities and deterrence. Weakness always breeds aggression.
Implementation of this cooperative agenda is a national security imperative and the US should actively promote it.
Plus, it could provide a little stability in a bad neighborhood. Athens and Jerusalem, the cornerstones of Western civilization, must show the way to the rest of the world.