GULF INTEREST DEVELOPS IN THE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN

GULF INTEREST DEVELOPS IN THE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN

On Friday, 16 April it was announced that the UAE is to join the previously trilateral strategic partnership in the Eastern Mediterranean, comprising Israel, Greece and Cyprus. The following week, it was widely reported that Greece has also signed an agreement with the government of Saudi Arabia to deploy a Patriot air defence system.  Foreign minister Nikos Dendias declared: “This is a big step forward for our country regarding the cooperation with the Gulf countries and also a contribution to the wider security of the energy sources for the West.”

On Monday, 26 April, it was announced that the UAE sovereign wealth fund, Mubadala, had concluded negotiations with Israel’s Delek Drilling to acquire its 22% stake in the Tamar gas field in the eastern Mediterranean – a deal worth some $1.1 billion, which also includes a 22% stake in the adjacent Dalit field.

The development of both economic and strategic ties between the Gulf’s two most important member states, Israel and two southern European countries shows the growing importance of the Eastern Mediterranean region.  All parties seem united in their concerns over Turkey’s ambitions in the region, albeit from differing points of view.

Importantly, it seems that Greece and Cyprus, in particular, are looking to leverage these shared concerns to constrain President Erdogan’s provocations and to prevent any repetition of last year’s military manoeuvring.  It has been argued that the new quadrilateral axis should be understood as an extension of efforts to contain Iran, it seems that the common denominator is not Tehran but Ankara.  Through Mubadala’s sizeable investment in the Tamar field, the UAE will gain further rationale for deepening its involvement in the region – not least in developing a defensive posture supported by military deployments and exercises.

For Saudi Arabia, it seems that it is indeed looking to outflank Iran’s influence in the northern Levant and to make common cause with the EU’s southern states by accepting European support for its defence, while at the same time signalling that Saudi will also oppose further Turkish provocations in the eastern Mediterranean.