By Dean Shmuel Elmas and Ariel Kahana
Following years of diplomatic strife, Turkey over the weekend signaled to Israel yet again its desire for rapprochement. On Monday, former admiral Cihat Yayci, a close confidant of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is expected to publish a first-of-its-kind proposal for an agreement on the countries’ shared exclusive economic zones (EEZs) in the Mediterranean Sea. The article will appear in the Israeli academic journal Turkeyscope—published by the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University—indicating in and of itself a desire to quell tensions with Israel.
Israel Hayom has learned this was the second such signal of reconciliation from Turkey as it pertains to Israel’s energy market. Four months ago, officials in Ankara sent their Israeli counterparts a clear message about Turkey’s desire to launch talks on the matter. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, the process stalled.
The next proposal followed a report last week in an Erdoğan-affiliated Turkish media outlet about secret talks between Mossad officials and their Turkish counterparts. According to the report, in these talks, too, Erdoğan’s representatives expressed a desire to readjust relations with Israel. The report also noted that in recent months the Turkish leader has ceased making belligerent statements about the Jewish state.
According to Yayci’s proposal, meanwhile, the maritime borders between the two countries will come together at the expense of Cyprus.
From the perspective of the Turks, the deal proposed to the Israelis is an extension of the maritime border the former admiral constructed with Libya. That deal was signed in Tripoli on Nov. 27 of last year and is the source of the current tensions between Ankara and Athens. If to this point the Greeks were already enraged over their maritime contiguity with Cyprus being severed, then such a deal would make things even more difficult for Athens and Nicosia.
First and foremost, the former Turkish admiral is focusing on transferring blocs 8, 9, 11 and 12 from Cypriot to Israeli hands. Bloc 12 is the location of the significantly sized Yishai-Aphrodite gas field, northwest of Israel’s Leviathan gas field, controlled by Israeli company Delek, industry giant Shell and U.S.-based Noble Energy. The gas field, discovered off Cyprus’ shores in 2011 by Texas-based Noble Energy, is estimated to contain between 7-10 billion cubic meters of gas on the Israeli side and about 100 billion cubic meters on the Cypriot side. As a reference, the estimated value of 100 billion cubic meters of gas is about $9 billion.