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SEPTEMBER 2020

Egypt And Greece Sign Maritime Agreement, Turkey Objects

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Egypt And Greece Sign Maritime Agreement, Turkey Objects

The foreign ministers of Greece and Egypt announcing the agreement

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has announced that Egypt and Greece signed an agreement on Thursday designating an exclusive economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean between the two countries.

Shoukry made the announcement at a joint press conference with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias in Cairo.

“This agreement allows both countries to move forward in maximizing the utilization of the resources available in the exclusive economic zone, especially promising oil and gas reserves,” Shoukry said.

In Greece, diplomats said the deal effectively nullified an accord between Turkey and the internationally recognised government of Libya.

Last year, those two parties agreed to maritime boundaries in a deal Egypt and Greece decried as illegal and a violation of international law. Greece maintains it infringed on its continental shelf and also the maritime jurisdiction of the island of Crete.

Greek foreign minister Dendias said of the agreement: “It is the absolute opposite of the illegal, void and legally unfounded memorandum of understanding that was signed between Turkey and Tripoli. Following the signing of this agreement, the non existent Turkish-Libyan memorandum has ended up where it belonged from the beginning: in the trash can.”

His statement came hours after Greece said it is ready to start exploratory talks on the demarcation of maritime zones with Turkey as soon as this month.

Tensions were already high between Greece and Turkey over the exploration of energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean. The NATO members are also at odds over a range of issues from over flights in the Aegean Sea area to maritime zones in the eastern Mediterranean and the division of Cyprus.

In June, Greece and Italy signed an agreement on maritime boundaries, establishing an exclusive economic zone between the two countries.

Earlier this month, Egypt said that part of a seismic survey planned by Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean potentially encroached on waters where Cairo claims exclusive rights.

Egypt hopes to become a regional energy hub with the rapid growth in Egypt’s natural gas supplies. It formed with other countries the so-called Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, which aims to develop the region’s gas market.

Turkey is not a member of the forum, which also includes Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Italy and Jordan. LINK

Turkey’s Foreign Minister on Thursday said Greece and Egypt violated the rights and continental shelves of Turkey and Libya by signing a maritime deal on exclusive economic zones (EEZ) in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Mevlut Cavusoglu stressed that the text and map of the agreement had yet to be revealed, adding: “However, it’s obvious by the given coordinates that the deal not only violates the rights and continental shelf of Turkey but also of Libya.”

“Hence, an agreement that violates our continental shelf, which we have reported to the UN, is null and void and the reason why we’ve come to this point is that countries like Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, are trying to sign agreements with Egypt and Israel while ignoring Turkey,” Cavusoglu added.

“We’ll continue to show them and the world that this agreement is null and void on the table and in the field.” LINK

A spokesman for the foreign ministry of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord issued a similar statement. LINK

Egyptian media outlet Al Ahram commented of the latest developments:

In 2019, Turkish officials and the prime minister of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) Fayez Al-Sarraj signed a memorandum of understanding on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea.

At that time, five countries, including Egypt, Greece, and Cyprus, called on the United Nations not to register the maritime boundary deal, describing it as “illegal.” The speaker of the Libyan House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh, in his letter to the UN, rejected the agreement.

Egypt, a close ally of Greece and Cyprus, has had strained relations with Turkey since the 2013 ouster of Egypt’s late Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, a close ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

Relations further deteriorated over Turkey’s intervention in Libya and a signalled military intervention by Egypt in the war-torn country. LINK

Earlier this week, the governments of Cyprus and France announced that the Cyprus-France Defence Cooperation Agreement has entered into effect.

It ensures “energy, crisis management, counter-terrorism and maritime security cooperation between the two countries.”

According to an official announcement, the agreement, which was signed on April 4, 2017, entered into force on August 1, 2020 after the completion of formal procedures.

“This agreement strengthens and further expands the cooperation of the Republic of Cyprus with the French Republic, in matters of defence and security, while at the same time it is an important step towards achieving the common goal of ensuring a stable and secure environment in the Eastern Mediterranean,” the announcement said.

The French president has also invited the seven leaders of the southern EU member states (MED7) to a meeting in Paris at the end of August. LINK

In other developments, Libya, Turkey and Malta have issued a joint statement expressing reservations about the European Union’s Operation IRINI that aims to monitor implementation of the UN arms embargo in Libya.

The joint statement on Thursday came after meetings for the Turkish and Maltese Foreign Ministers with Libyan officials in Tripoli.

Turkish and Maltese Foreign Ministers as well as their Libyan counterpart have all voiced their reservations about IRINI naval mission, agreeing to boost their cooperation in different fields as the Maltese Foreign Minister and his Turkish counterpart reiterated their support for the Government of National Accord, saying there can be no military solution to the crisis in Libya.

They also agreed on joint cooperation in economy and efforts to limit the flow of illegal immigrants, return of Maltese and Turkish firms to work in the country and resume flights among the three countries.

The statement also said that the three countries will boost cooperation to fight illegal immigration and human trafficking as this issue isn’t just a threat to Europe but also to Libya, saying the southern borders of Libya should be well secured against human trafficking and smuggling operations.

The three countries also agreed to set up a joint working team to coordinate efforts and cooperation for the implementation of the agreements. LINK

As international developments evolve and each side seeks to consolidate its position and secure its interests, the people of Libya remain trapped in a conflict in which events on the ground in Libya are increasingly of secondary importance.

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