Greece and Egypt sign EastMed maritime agreement

(Updates with Turkish Foreign Ministry reaction)

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry on Thursday inked a maritime borders agreement delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two countries, an area containing offshore oil and gas reserves, Reuters reported.

“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,” Reuters cited Shoukry as saying at a joint press conference.

“The agreement with Egypt is within the framework of international law, respects all concepts of international law and the law of the sea and good neighbourly relations, and contributes to security and stability in the region,” Dendias said.

Greece and Egypt’s relations with Turkey have been tense. In November, Ankara and Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) signed a maritime agreement to establish an EEZ to legitimise Turkey’s claims to offshore gas and oil reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean, much to the ire of Greece, Egypt and other nations collaborating on a pipeline project of their own off the Cypriot coast.

The deal creates a sea corridor between the two nations which cuts through the boundaries claimed by Greece and Egypt in their own agreement. Cairo and Athens have condemned Turkey’s deal as “illegal” and a violation of international law, Reuters said.

“The agreement with Egypt is within the framework of international law, respects all concepts of international law and the law of the sea and good neighbourly relations, and contributes to security and stability in the region,” Dendias said on Thursday.

Turkey has played an increasingly active role in the Eastern Mediterranean, sometimes resulting in conflicts of interest and subsequent hostility with neighbouring countries.

The Turkish armed forces have provided substantial military support to the GNA in the ongoing conflict with General Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), which is backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and France, among others.

Turkey is also pursuing what it calls its “Blue Homeland” naval expansion doctrine, which has resulted in a series of territorial disputes with Greece over continental shelf claims in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said Turkey would not recognise the signed maritime borders agreement between Greece and Egypt.

"The so-called maritime demarcation agreement, which was signed today, does not exist for Turkey," the ministry said in a statement, according to CNN Türk.

"This agreement also attempts to usurp Libya's rights. There is no doubt that Turkey will not allow any activity in this (designated) area and will continue to resolutely defend the legitimate rights and interests of our country and the Turkish Cypriots in the Eastern Mediterranean."

In June, Greece and Italy signed an agreement on maritime boundaries, establishing an EEZ between the two countries and resolving longstanding issues over fishing rights in the Ionian Sea, according to Reuters.

Separately, the same month, TRT World had said Cairo stood to gain economically from the Turkey-GNA maritime agreement as it provided potential leverage against Athens in their own deal.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-egypt-greece/egypt-and-greece-sign-agreement-on-exclusive-economic-zone-idUSKCN252216
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.