Egypt holds talks with Greece to boost cooperation in multiple areas including energy and economy

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In a telephonic conversation held between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, on Wednesday the former expressed keenness to boost ties with latter on various areas, with special focus on economy and energy. Egyptian Premier also expressed his openness to establish stronger ties with Greece regarding security and military cooperation.

Observers believed that El-Sisi held the meeting as act to calm worrying Greece over a possible agreement between Ankara and Cairo, which would allow Turkish hydrocarbon exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean. If the agreement between Egypt and Turkey gets formulated, it could prove detrimental for Greece.

According to the UN Convention on Maritime laws, a country is legally entitled to stretch its territorial waters until only 12 nautical miles in international waters, but in case of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), it gains the rights to fishing, mining and drilling, and its territorial waters gets extended to an additional 200 miles. However, if the maritime distance between the two nations is under 424 miles, the two nations need a bilateral treaty to mutually agree on a boundary line demarcating their respective EEZs. Egypt signed EEZ deal with Greece in August 2020.

If Egypt signs EEZ deal with Turkey, it would provide latter with official access to oil-rich international water, which is the basis of dispute between Turkey and Greece. Despite strained ties in the past over, Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, on Wednesday hinted that his nation wanted to better its relations with Cairo. Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara, “According to the course of our relations, we can also sign an agreement with Egypt by negotiating maritime jurisdictions.” It is estimated that Eastern Mediterranean region has more than 70 trillion cubic feet of natural gas or holds about 1.5% of the world’s total natural gas reserves.

Turkey’s arbitrary energy exploration drive in the eastern Mediterranean has worsened its ties with neighbouring countries, especially Greece and Cyprus. The two have been contesting Ankara’s right to undertake gas exploration in their regional waters. The conflict reached its height in 2019 as the respective nations even prepared for military engagement in the contested waters, compelling European Union to intervene in the matter. The bloc members asked Turkey to backdown and expressed strong disagreement over Ankara’s attempt to convert the contested international waters into Turkish concession areas, to extract huge quantities of natural gas.

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