President Erdogan had CHP in his crosshairs during his election rally, as usual.

He mentioned that a certain MP from CHP has been talking against Turkey’s oil and gas explorations in Eastern Mediterranean. Hearing him talking about something other than ordinary politics, I went all ears. Here is what he said:

“He says our operations in Eastern Mediterranean must come to an end. Of course, it is natural for Greeks and others to feel agitated by our actions. But what we must question here is the attitude we see from CHP. It is sad to see CHP acting this way regarding a situation that involves our energy supply security. What troubles us the most is hearing CHP talk the way the Greeks do.”

To be honest, I was so overwhelmed by the upcoming local elections that I totally skimped on this. When the president moved on to other subjects, I started to investigate his claims. And, quickly enough, I came across multiple articles and headlines from government friendly papers claim that “the CHP MP plays right into the Greeks’ hands.”

I was taken aback. How can a Member of the Parliament, regardless of their affiliation, talk negative about such a sensitive subject?

I swiftly found out that the MP in question was Ali Mahir Basarir of Mersin, and I proceeded to dig out the parliamentary motion he put forth.

Probably because he is an MP out of Mersin, he makes a point to say that the explorations done in the Erdemli district of Mersin were unsuccessful. He goes on to assert that the efforts that have been taking place in Alanya for the last 100 days would also turn out to be a failure. His motion to the Parliament summarizes the high cost of the exploration process giving us nothing in return, and questions whether these funds would be better spent on the basic needs of the farmers in the region. His motion ends with this question:

“Considering nothing positive coming out of Erdemli, are we not continuing with these explorations just a show of force against the Greeks and the Israelis who are jointly conducting exploration efforts in Eastern Mediterranean?”

Basarir, in front of the cameras at the Parliament yesterday, said he would resign his position as an MP if he had really said any of the things the president claimed he did. He said, “When the president places an MP in his crosshairs, the minimum he could have done is to have read the motion they put forth. I am an MP from Mersin. How can I even dare to question the explorations done in the Mediterranean?”

I read MP Basarir’s motion twice in its entirety.

He basically criticizes the high cost of these investments and operations yielding nothing to Turkey in return.

What can be more natural than a Member of the Parliament questioning the rationing and the transparency of government expenditures made out of our national budget? Furthermore, it is an MP’s job to ask whether there was a tender bid opened for this project.

Consequently, it would be disingenuous to say “CHP MP rails against our explorations in Eastern Mediterranean,” or “CHP does not want us to look for oil and natural gas in the Mediterranean.”

But as a journalist who has spent years in energy diplomacy, I have to point out a few things.

Although, I think it was prudent for Basarir to question the methods of bidding, transparency and efficiency in these efforts, his mention of a show of strength against Cyprus and Israel was unnecessary.

Turkey cannot afford to be left out of the exploration efforts in the south and east of Cyprus. When called for, it may choose to stage a show of strength against the US, Israel, Egypt, Italy and Qatar. I wish Basarir had spoken to Necdet Pamir, who has been a member of CHP’s energy commission, and one of the foremost energy experts in Turkey before making such a declaration.

Speaking of Qatar, let me remind you that Qatar Petroleum signed an exploratory agreement with ExxonMobil of the US on January 1, 2017, and started drilling at the 10th parcel to the south of Cyprus in November of 2018. Note that these companies are under Greek Cypriot’s authority.

Do you think Qatar Petroleum would dare to undertake such an operation if it hadn’t received the authorization from the Prince of Qatar, Turkey’s supposed close ally?

When Qatar was being crushed under the weight of the embargos, it was Turkey that stock up their shelves with goods. We are in a rightful position to question their intentions.

Our reaction against the energy resources in Eastern Mediterranean must include Qatar’s position, otherwise it will sound really insincere.

Originally published in Turkish at: https://www.sozcu.com.tr/2019/yazarlar/deniz-zeyrek/dogu-akdeniz-demisken-once-katara-bakmali-3631660/