The Greek government is hailing a deal reached with Egypt on Thursday establishing an exclusive economic zone for oil and gas rights as a major success, claiming it counters growing Turkish influence in the region as Ankara prepares to issue new oil exploration licenses that have been sharply criticized by Greece, the European Union and Washington.
SOURCE: VOICE OF AMERICA
In a surprise move, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias secretly jetted off to Egypt to seal the deal, finalizing a strategic alliance with Cairo, which diplomats in Athens said required 13 rounds of negotiations and 15 years to ultimately conclude.
With the European Union and Washington increasingly concerned about Turkey’s growing influence in the eastern Mediterranean, Greek and Egyptian negotiators now moved fast.
The agreement effectively expands and consolidates both countries’ rights to drill and explore untapped reserves in the hundreds of miles of sea that divides them.
More important, Greece said the deal trumps a contentious maritime deal that Turkey recently signed with the Libyan government in Tripoli, allowing Turkey to drill for gas and oil in the same region, including within Greek waters, off the coast of Greek islands such as Crete.
This deal, he said, is the exact opposite of what he calls the invalid and illegal understanding between Ankara and Tripoli. It confirms and safeguards the rights of Greece’s islands, Dendias said, and it attests to the decisiveness of both Greek and Egypt to block Turkey’s influence in the region. With this agreement, Dendias said, Turkey’s deal with Tripoli goes in the trash, where he said it should.
While both NATO allies, Greece and Turkey have been at odds for years over sea, air and land rights. Tensions have flared in recent months, with Greece warning it would wage war if Turkey moved to act on its energy designs, drilling or even exploring in waters in Greece claims.
Turkey insists it is well within its rights to explore untapped energy fields in the eastern Mediterranean and it has submitted its maritime deal with Libya to the United Nations for ratification.
With tensions running high between the two nations, EU member states and the U.S. State Department have urged Turkey to back off from its ambitious energy designs, at least for now. They are also pushing Greece and Turkey to return to the negotiating table in hope of trying to sort out age-old differences. It has been four years since the two countries have held regular diplomatic meetings.
ANADOLU AGENCY: Greek-Egyptian maritime deal ‘worthless’: Turkey
The “worthless” maritime deal just announced between Cairo and Athens has no effect on the issue of exclusive economic zones in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey’s president said Friday.
“The agreement between Greece and Egypt is worthless,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul after Friday prayer at the Hagia Sophia Mosque. “There’s no need to talk with those who have no rights, especially in maritime jurisdictions,” Erdogan added.
Egypt on Thursday announced that it signed a bilateral agreement with Greece on the delimitation of maritime jurisdictions between the two countries in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry slammed the “so-called agreement” in a statement, asserting that Greece and Egypt share no mutual sea border and that the deal is “null and void” for Ankara. It added that the demarcated area in the agreement was located on Turkey’s continental shelf, as Ankara has reported to the UN.
Turkey has long opposed the efforts of various countries to exclude it from its rightful maritime jurisdiction, despite it having the longest coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The efforts have especially tried to deprive Turkey of its rights to explore for energy resources in the region, which Turkey has encouraged the fair sharing of by regional countries. Last November Turkey and Libya signed a landmark deal laying out maritime boundaries between the two countries.