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Sunday, 9 August 2020

Egypt, Greece sign agreement for EastMed economic zone, drawing Turkish ire

Egypt and Greece have signed an agreement creating a joint exclusive economic zone in the oil-and-gas-rich eastern Mediterreanean, the countries’ foreign ministers announced at a joint press conference in Cairo on Thursday. “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,” Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said during the presser (watch; runtime 13:45) with Nikos Dendias, his Greek counterpart. The agreement will also help Egypt launch more hydrocarbon exploration tenders in the natural gas rich area, Oil Ministry spokesperson Hamdy Abdel Aziz said yesterday (watch, runtime: 9:57).

The objective: Containing Turkey. According to a map seen by Reuters, the demarcation of the Egypt-Greece economic zone ignores the agreement signed between Turkey and Libya last year for a joint maritime zone. Greek diplomats claimed that Thursday’s pact nullified the Turkey-Libya agreement, and Dendias did not mince his words at the presser, saying it “is the absolute opposite of the illegal, void and legally unfounded” MoU between Turkey and Tripoli, which “has ended up where it belonged from the beginning: in the trash can.”

The nutter in Ankara doesn’t recognize the Egypt-Greece pact (shocking, we know): Turkey’s foreign minister described the Egyptian-Greek agreement as “null and void,” saying it infringed on Turkey’s continental shelf and violated Libya’s maritime rights — adding that Ankara would not allow activity in the area. Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Hafez said on Twitter that Turkey’s comments were “strange” given it had not actually seen the agreement.

Turkey is again exploring for energy in the eastern Mediterranean, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday, telling reporters that “we don’t feel obliged to talk with those who do not have rights in maritime jurisdiction zones.” Ankara had agreed last month to put on hold its gas exploration efforts and hold talks with Greece.

International opprobrium for Turkey: Cyprus, Greece, France, and the UAE have all joined Egypt in condemning Turkey's successive attempts this year to drill for natural gas in Cyprus' disputed maritime zone. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said last week that if his country and Turkey remain at loggerheads over their maritime boundary dispute he would welcome international court intervention, Al Monitor reports.

The UAE welcomed the Greco-Egyptian pact: Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan congratulated Shoukry on signing the latest agreement, saying it “represents an important step that reflects the efforts of Egypt and Greece to enhance the stability foundations in the Eastern Mediterranean Region,” the UAE’s state news agency WAM reported on Friday. The Emirates’ Foreign Affairs Minister Anwar Gargash also took to Twitter saying that “the signing of the maritime border demarcation agreement between Egypt and Greece is a victory for international law over the law of the jungle.”

The pact is getting plenty of ink in the international press: Reuters | Associated Press | Bloomberg | Al Arabiya | Arab News | Ekathimerini.

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