According to a report issued by the Wall Street Journal last week, Turkish officials were quoted as saying they do not want a war against Israel or Cyprus.
The comments come in the wake of the near-complete freeze of relations between Israel and Turkey over the Mavi Marmara incident in May 2010 in which the Israeli Navy boarded a Turkish boat laden with weapons and terrorists that attempted to breach the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip and ended with nine dead Turkish citizens and several wounded IDF soldiers.
The report quoted senior Turkish officials as well as US State Department officials as saying the US has pushed Turkey behind closed doors to quit its antagonistic position towards Cyprus’ gas drilling projects, warning that any action would be interpreted as an attack on the United States. Noble Energy, Inc., based in Houston, TX, is exploring the eastern Mediterranean for gas on Cyprus’ behalf. In addition, they have warned that if a conflict flares up between Israel and Turkey, the US will side with Israel.
Over the last few months, the US has attempted to calm the tensions between Israel and Turkey, who were up until recently close allies that shared ties on the military, economic and diplomatic fronts. The complete cessation of ties has many worried that a flare-up could lead to a regional war, possibly triggered by a second attempt to breach the blockage of Gaza.
Turkey and Cyprus have been at odds for over 40 years, since Turkey occupied the norther half of the island, claiming it as theirs 14 years after the island declared its independence from Britain in 1960. While efforts have been made to bring peace to the island, the explosive rhetoric coming from Ankara, as well as Cyprus’ request for Israel and the US to protect it from Turkey, could lead to a second escalation.
The report also cited US concern for the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statement that he would send warships to protect the next flotilla amongst many other statements over the last few weeks of a volatile, threatening nature. Turkey’s response was to cool its rhetoric, saying they will only react to anyone who enters their territorial waters illegally.