Turkey’s announcement that it will resume searching for oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean is “extremely worrying”, the EU said on Sunday. Turkey announced the decision after Greece and Egypt signed an agreement delineating their respective exclusive economic zones in the region, which include areas claimed by Turkey and Libya.
The discovery of vast gas reserves in the region in recent years has sparked a prospecting scramble by Greece, Turkey and Egypt as well as Cyprus and Israel. The dispute has become much more heated with the ongoing conflict in Libya, particularly after one of the two rival authorities in Libya (the Government of National Accord) signed a maritime agreement with Turkey that included areas claimed by Greece and Egypt.
In response, Egypt and Greece recently signed a maritime boundary agreement of their own last week purporting to define the respective countries’ exclusive economic zones. On Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the resumption of oil and gas exploratory operations accusing Greece of failing to keep its promises.
The European Union has expressed its concern over the rapidly deteriorating situation.
“Latest naval mobilisations in eastern Mediterranean… will lead to a greater antagonism and distrust,” foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement on Sunday, calling the development “extremely worrying”.
“Maritime boundaries must be defined through dialogue and negotiations, not through unilateral actions and mobilisation of naval forces.”
Borrell added that “disputes must be solved in accordance with international law,” and said Brussels was “committed to help solving such disputes and disagreements in this area of vital security interest”.
The deal between Greece and Egypt aimed to establish maritime boundaries between the two countries and appeared to be a direct response to a similar accord reached last November between Turkey and the UN-recognised government in Libya.
The agreement considerably enlarged Turkey’s maritime territory and drew accusations from several countries, led by Greece, that Turkey was trying to assert its dominance in the region. LINK
In a related development, a spokesman for Egypt’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources said on Saturday that the new maritime border demarcation agreement with Greece would allow for more bids to be launched regarding oil and gas exploration in the Mediterranean.
During a phone-in with Ahmed Moussa’s TV show “Ala Massoulity” (By My Responsibility), Abdel-Aziz stated that had the borders not been demarcated, Egypt would not have been able to conduct oil exploration.
He explained that the border demarcation process provides a legal basis for the government to conduct exploratory activities in the zone and offer exploration permits to international consortiums, as occurred following the demarcation of maritime borders with Cyprus which led to the discovery of the Zohr field.
Egypt and Greece signed an agreement on Thursday to define an exclusive economic zone between them.
While the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that the agreement to demarcate the maritime borders between Egypt and Greece covers a region that is part of the Turkish continental shelf, and that the agreement is a violation of Libyan maritime rights as well, the UAE and Bahrain on Friday welcomed the agreement to demarcate the maritime borders between Egypt and Greece, establishing an exclusive economic zone between them. LINK
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- Ripple effects Greece and Turkey open new northern front on Libyan conflict
- Al Sisi says Egypt has right to intervene in Libya vows to protect Sirte al Jufra
- A reconsideration of domestic challenges to achieving a peaceful settlement in Libya