Turkish ship Oruç Reis conducts seismic oil exploration near Greek islands that are situated close to the coast of Turkey. (EPA)


A new conflict has opposed Turkey and Greece in the Aegean Sea. The discovery of gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean in recent years has accentuated the rivalries between the neighboring bourgeoisies: Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Cyprus, and today Turkey and Greece are fighting over these strategic resources, under the watchful eye of the imperialist corporations that exploit the deposits and liquefy them: BP (United Kingdom), Total (France), ENI (Italy), ExxonMobil (United States), etc.

The conflict revolves around the Greek island of Kastellorizo, located 2 kilometers from the Turkish coast between Rhodes and Cyprus. According to Ankara, the exclusive economic zone surrounding the island deprives Turkey of tens of thousands of square kilometers of gas-rich sea, while Athens defends what it considers to be its exclusive waters.

Erdogan’s government, in a Turkey in the midst of an economic crisis [i.e., the implosion of the Turkish lira] and undergoing internal conflicts, is trying to rally the Turkish people by winning the international situation: from July 21 to Aug. 2, 18 Turkish warships escorted the seismic research ship Oruç Reis within the Greek exclusive economic zone. This under the cover of a maritime delimitation agreement signed with Libya in autumn 2019, which is not insignificant, since this conflict is anchored in a larger framework than the Greco-Turkish waters.

The wind seemed to be turning in Turkey’s favor. The Erdogan government sent the Oruç Reis back to the Greek areas on Aug. 10 to continue its search until Aug. 27. This time, Greece mobilized almost all of its navy to counter Turkey, causing an accident between two warships, the Turkish frigate Kemal Reis and the Greek Limnos.

In an escalation, France inserted itself into the conflict on Aug. 13 by deploying two Rafale multirole combat aircraft, a helicopter carrier, and a frigate off Kastellorizo ​​to officially participate in joint exercises with the Greek fleet. Several United Arab Emirates F16 aircraft were also deployed to Greece for these exercises.

These tensions are part of a larger conflict, that of Libya—ravaged since the intervention of France and its allies in 2011 against dictator Gadhafi. Since then, the Libyan conflict has evolved a lot, to reach today (in a simplified way) a division into two main players in the country—between a government of national unity based in Tripoli, in the west of the country, of which the prime minister is Fayez el-Sarraj, and a military government embodied by General Haftar, who controls the entire east of the country.

These two governments, which have nothing to do with the fate of Libyan workers, are based on fragile alliances with a multitude of militias, and have therefore sought foreign allies.

The GNA of Fayes el-Sarraj therefore arranged Turkish friendship, by negotiating oil and gas contracts operated by Turkey. In the meantime, Marshal Haftar arranged diverse and varied support—ranging from Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, to France, which in a hypocritical manner officially recognizes the government of Fayes el-Sarraj while militarily supporting Marshal Haftar, whom it believed was going to be the little corporal who would win this conflict.

The conflict, in a country rich in hydrocarbons, and where the capitalists of the whole world intermingle as always, saw the escalation rise on June 10: A Turkish freighter headed for Tripoli was intercepted by the French frigate Courbet, before being intercepted itself by a Turkish frigate, which, according to the French authorities, would have illuminated it with its radar controls, a phase that precedes shooting, and an extremely aggressive posture that saw the withdrawal of the French frigate.

Thus the capitalists play with fire to maintain or conquer markets, under the pretexts of a peace mission, of defending their borders, and of military exercises. The capitalists—whether French, Turkish or Greek—multiply the dangerous situations that could explode into new wars.

This article is translated from the online journal of Anti-capitalisme & Révolution, a tendency within the New Anti-capitalist Party of France.