Elections are coming up in the Republic of Turkey in mid-May. The elections will determine the fate of the nation, which is suffering from rising inflation, an unstable currency, human rights violations, and strained relations with its former closest allies.

Nonetheless, if current Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan were to lose his elections, the geopolitical standoff in the Mediterranean would very much continue. Pre-Erdogan, there have been several high-profile clashes, massacres, and heightened conflicts in the region due to successive Turkish governments reneging on their own Treaty of Lausanne.


The Aegean Isles have been recognized as Greece’s sovereignty territory since 1923. In the Treaty of Lausanne, written and backed by the victorious Kemalist government in the Greco-Turkish War, the Isles would be recognized as a sovereign part of the Hellenic Republic in return for Athens recognizing Ankara’s rule on Asia Minor.

Relations between Greece and Turkey would be stable for several decades until the Cyprus Emergency, when the Greek Cypriot paramilitary, EOKA, fought against British rule and sought to unite Cyprus under the Hellenic Republic. Not wanting to give up their ambitions over Cyprus, the Turkish government instigated The Istanbul pogroms and would all but in writing renege over the Lausanne Treaty.

Both nations have been in a state of cold war over the past several decades with heightened tensions over the 1974 Invasion of Cyprus, Imia Crisis, 2020 border clashes, and frequent military incursions over the Aegean.

Flashpoint of the Conflict: EEZ

A major breaking point in the Mediterranean has been Ankara’s ambitions over Greece’s Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) and the right to the sea. The United Nations Conventions on the Law and Sea (UNCLOS) recognizes Athens’ hegemony over the Aegean Isles—an international treaty Turkey has refused to sign.

Despite current President Erdogan’s growing warlike rhetoric over its neighbor and fellow NATO member, the conflict didn’t start under his AKP party. Before Erdogan’s rise to power, the traditional CHP, also known as the Kemalist party, have had tensions with Greece and Cyprus for the past several decades. Though they ideologically reject Erdogan’s pro-Islamist faction, they are near center on renewed aggression against their Mediterranean neighbors, a policy Erdogan’s opponents share.