Turkey, Egypt to benefit from Eastern Mediterranean cooperation, experts say
Turkey and Egypt have many areas for potential cooperation, including in maritime areas, economy and security, Cihat Yaycı, former Turkish Navy Rear Admiral and head of the Center for Maritime and Global Strategies, said on Friday. from the University of Bahçeşehir.
“Egypt can gain larger sea areas if it signs a delimitation agreement with Turkey in accordance with the principles of international law,” Yaycı told Anadolu Agency (AA).
“Turkey and Egypt, with good relations and good cooperation, will be influential powers in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the world energy market”, he added, affirming that Egypt announces the holding of a call for tenders for hydrocarbon exploration in the eastern Mediterranean, recognizing the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) delimited by Turkey is a positive sign.
He explained that the agreement reached between Egypt and the Greek Cypriot administration in 2003 did not comply with the principle of proportionality of international law, Cairo having a wider coastline.
“If Egypt chooses to enter into a delimitation agreement with Turkey rather than with the Greek Cypriot administration, it will gain 11,500 square kilometers (3,352 square nautical miles) more, which means more than the area of study of the island of Cyprus, ”he added. .
Maritime zones give states rights over natural resources. Largely unexplored, the eastern Mediterranean is said to be rich in natural gas.
“The rights and interests of Turkey and Egypt are common. An agreement between Egypt and Turkey, which have the longest coastline in the eastern Mediterranean, is important and necessary, ”Yaycı said, adding that the two countries will thus gain the sea areas they deserve and have energy resources. .
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said last month that Turkey could negotiate a maritime demarcation agreement with Egypt in the eastern Mediterranean, depending on the state of bilateral relations.
“We consider that Egypt respects Turkey’s continental shelf in the eastern Mediterranean in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) agreement with Greece as a positive step,” said the senior Turkish diplomat.
In November 2019, Turkey and Libya signed a maritime delimitation agreement that provided a legal framework to prevent any fait accompli by states in the region. As a result, attempts by the Greek government to appropriate huge parts of Libya’s continental shelf, when a political crisis hit the North African country in 2011, were avoided.
The agreement also confirmed that Turkey and Libya are maritime neighbors. The boundary starts from Fethiye-Marmaris-Kaş on the southwest coast of Turkey and extends to the Derna-Tobruk-Bordia coast of Libya.
In response, Egypt and Greece signed an agreement in August 2020, designating an EEZ in the eastern Mediterranean between the two countries.
Relations between Turkey and Egypt deteriorated after General Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi overthrew the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, in a coup after only a year in power.
Ankara has maintained its position that a democratically elected president cannot be impeached by a military coup and thus expressed its criticism of al-Sisi and his supporters, including the West and some of Ankara’s rivals. in the Gulf region.
The Egyptian government, for its part, has urged Turkey not to intervene in a file it considers to be the country’s internal affairs. The dispute led to an impasse in bilateral relations for many years.
Recently, however, signs of a possible reconciliation have come from both countries, not least due to changing dynamics in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Turkey-Greece crisis over the region’s energy resources.
Çavuşoğlu said on Thursday that a Turkish delegation would visit Egypt next month, in the first step towards normalizing relations between the two countries.
Noting that he spoke with his Egyptian counterpart in a phone call, in which they both greeted Ramadan, Çavuşoğlu said the conditions were in place for the two sides to hold talks after eight years.
“Egypt is an important country for the Muslim world, Africa, Palestine and everyone. Egypt’s stability and prosperity are important to everyone,” Çavuşoğlu said.
“ Cairo’s shifting alliances may change regions ”
Muhammad Soliman al-Zawawy, professor at the Middle East Institute at Sakarya University (ORMER), told AA that a possible Ankara-Cairo alliance would open new doors for the two countries.
He said that the Turkish companies could thus join in the tenders for the exploration of hydrocarbons in Egyptian waters and that the two countries would thus find more advantageous agreements than unfair contracts concluded with Western companies.
The eastern Mediterranean basin is estimated to contain natural gas worth $ 700 billion (5 trillion Turkish liras), according to the US Geological Survey.
Egypt has a gigantic offshore field, Zohr, discovered in August 2015 by the Italian IEI. The field could hold reserves of more than 850 billion cubic meters (30 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas.
“Cairo, by changing the alliances it has built over the past decade, can change the whole equation for the region.”
Al-Zawawy said a deal between Turkey and Egypt would also complicate the EastMed gas pipeline project, which violates the sea borders of Ankara, Cairo and Tripoli.
To transport gas from the region to the rest of Europe and help achieve its goal of reducing energy dependence on Russia, the Greek Cypriot administration, Greece and Israel have reached an agreement in December 2018 for the construction of a gas pipeline, called EastMed. Egypt is not part of the project.
This 1,367-mile pipeline is expected to pass 106 miles south of Cyprus and end at Otranto, in southern Italy, after passing through the Greek island of Crete and mainland Greece.
The cost of its construction is estimated at $ 7 billion and it should be able to transport 20 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year.
However, construction of the pipeline is still several years away and it would not be operational until 2025 at the earliest, while the deal between Turkey and Libya further complicates the project.