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Egyptian Parliament Approves Maritime Agreement With Greece, Germany And US Step Up Diplomatic Efforts In Libya

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Egyptian Parliament Approves Maritime Agreement With Greece, Germany And US Step Up Diplomatic Efforts In Libya

The agreement overlaps with areas claimed by Turkey and the Government of National Accord of Libya

On Monday the Egyptian parliament’s legislative and constitutional affairs committee approved a deal demarcating maritime borders with Greece. The deal was signed by the ministers of foreign affairs of Egypt and Greece in Cairo on 6 August.

A report prepared by the committee said that MPs approved the deal after they had ensured that it is consistent with Egypt’s constitutional and legal requirements.

“The deal between the two republics of Egypt and Greece also go in line with international law,” the report states, adding that “it also includes establishing an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) between the two countries.”

The report said the deal aims at partially demarcating the maritime borders between the two parties in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

“The demarcation of these borders will be completed when necessary and once consultations between the two countries on point ‘A’ and point ‘E’ are finished in line with international law.”

The report indicates that the EEZ will be between point “A East” and “E West” and in line with attached geographical formulations and that it forms an integral part of the deal.

The report said that any change of the geographical formulations between point “A to the East” and point “E to the west” will be concluded only under a bilateral agreement between the two countries.

“If any of the two parties seeks to sign an EEZ with a third country sharing maritime borders with the two countries, it shall inform the other party in advance and ahead of signing the deal with the third country,” said the report.

The deal also states that if natural resources, including hydrocarbons, are found in an extension area between the EEZ of the two countries, there should be a new deal on how to utilise these resources and that any disputes in this respect shall be settled through diplomatic channels.

“It can be modified under an agreement between the two parties and that it goes into effect once the ratification documents are exchanged between the two countries,” said the report.

Egypt and Greece signed a maritime demarcation deal on 6 August. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Soukry said in a press conference that the provisions of the deal are in line with international law and the United Nations Convention On The Law Of The Sea.

Shoukry pointed out that the new agreement paves the way for more regional cooperation between the Egyptian and Greek sides in the field of energy, given the membership of the two countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum.

The forum’s members are Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Israel, Jordan, and Palestine. The forum was established in January 2019 to “create a regional gas market, optimise resource development, cut the cost of infrastructure, offer competitive prices, and improve trade ties,” according to Egypt’s petroleum ministry.

Shoukry added that “the friendly relationship between Egypt and Greece is a key pillar to preserving the security and stability of the Eastern Mediterranean and countering the threats stemming from irresponsible policies that support extremism and terrorism.”

Turkey’s foreign minister claimed on the same day the Egypt-Greece deal was signed that it is baseless and that it falls in the area of Turkey’s continental shelf.
Reuters quoted the ministry as saying that Turkey considers the agreement null and void and that the deal also violates Libya’s maritime rights.

Tensions were already high between Greece and Turkey over the exploration of energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean. Greece has stated that it would not hesitate using force to stop Turkey’s illegal exploration works in the Mediterranean. LINK

Meanwhile, in Libya German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas made an unannounced visit to Tripoli on Monday, saying that the world must not be fooled by the ‘deceptive calm’’ in Libya at the moment and should take the initiative to find a way to end the conflict.

Maas said in a statement upon arrival in the North African country that he was meeting with officials in the Government of National Accord (GNA) in the capital to “talk about ways out of this very dangerous situation'” where both sides in the bloody civil war are being armed by international allies.

Germany has been trying to act as an intermediary, and in January held a summit in Berlin where participants from both sides agreed to respect an arms embargo and push Libya’s warring parties to reach a full cease-fire, but the agreement has been repeatedly violated.

Maas will also travel to Abu Dhabi to meet with his counterpart there to urge him to use the UAE’s influence with Hafter to end hostilities ‘in line with the Berlin summit’.

The defence ministers of Turkey and Qatar were also in Libya on Monday, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether the German foreign minister met with them, and the Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a query.

Turkey signed a military accord with the GNA late last year, as well as a memorandum of understanding on maritime boundaries, that was rejected by Egypt, Greece and Cyprus.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and Chief of Staff General Yasar Guler were in Tripoli on Monday to ‘observe the operations’ under a military cooperation deal with Libya, Turkey’s defence ministry said. LINK

Last week, US Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland visited Cairo last for talks with Egyptian officials and the speaker of the Tobruk-based Libyan House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh, on means of resolving the Libyan conflict.

In an interview with Ahram Online Norland said Washington aims to “get forces to pull back” and “find some sort of neutral security arrangement” for Sirte. He revealed that one of the ideas suggested during talks involved the establishment of a demilitarised zone around Sirte, and that the political dimension of the Cairo Declaration on 6 June offers an opportunity for new voices to emerge from Libya’s east to engage with the GNA in Tripoli and initiate a Libyan political dialogue with a new approach to seek a negotiated solution to the conflict.

“One of the ideas we are suggesting is supporting some sort of a demilitarised solution around Sirte. We are not the only ones who suggested that, but if we can use our influence to do so, we would like very much to do that. The aim is to get forces to pull back, to find some sort of neutral security arrangement for the city itself, and to avoid the risk of Sirte becoming a flashpoint for an expanded conflict…

We have an opportunity here to consolidate a long-term ceasefire, and I am not going to say whether I am optimistic or pessimistic, but I think it is an opportunity that rational parties support and will continue to do so. The reason is that the alternative is a serious regional conflict.” LINK

A concerted diplomatic effort is being made to attempt to forge a preliminary agreement between the main belligerent parties that could pave the way to broader negotiations over the future of the Libyan State. If they fail, it is just a matter of time until hostilities break out again, with the serious risk of direct clashes between Turkey and Egypt that could draw in other countries in the region as well.

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