Athens and Cairo agree on exclusive economic zone

Greece and Egypt on Thursday signed an agreement on setting up an exclusive economic zone in the natural gas-rich eastern Mediterranean. The move came in response to the agreement between Turkey and Libya, which they believed violated their interests. Turkey has now criticised the pact as worthless and declared its intention of resuming exploratory drilling for oil and gas reserves in the region.

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Sabah (TR) /

A historical opportunity for Ankara

The new agreement is just a sign of Greece's weakness, writes the pro-government Turkish daily Sabah:

“The seas have always been problematic for Turkey. It was unable to solve these problems before the Second World War, and then all the critical issues were frozen during the Cold War. In the 1990s it went on the defensive against the demands of spoiled Greece. ... Today the situation is completely different. Turkey is stronger at sea and there can be no question of US intervention. The European Union, Greece's only security, has neither the intention nor the strength to deal with this issue. Greece is on its own vis-à-vis Turkey. This is the opportunity we have been waiting for for years. And that is why Greece is trying to close this gap by means of diplomatic manoeuvres such as the agreement with Egypt.”

Haravgi (CY) /

Talks are the only path

Haravgi hopes that the dialogue between Athens and Ankara will nonetheless continue:

“Greece and Turkey have no other choice. ... And we hope that the efforts towards a Greek-Turkish dialogue will bear fruit. ... Threats won't help to reduce the tensions. Instead they only distract leaders and societies from the need to deal with the pandemic crisis, the economic crisis and its impact on the population. Without threats the EU and its leading countries can convince Turkey to resolve its differences with its neighbours through dialogue. Whatever emerges from this will benefit everyone.”

Cyprus Mail (CY) /

Complicated issues left unresolved

Charles Ellinas of the Atlantic Council's Global Energy Center talks in the Cyprus Mail about the dangers of the new agreement:

“The Greece-Egypt agreement only addresses the EEZ boundary between the two countries not accounting for Cyprus and Kastellorizo. This was done at the request of Egypt as it considers these issues to be too complicated. This leaves open questions that can be dealt only through negotiations with Turkey - not involving Cyprus. In the meanwhile, in order to maintain pressure and to convey the message that it is determined to continue with its plans, Turkey is continuing and escalating intervention in Cyprus EEZ. …These developments leave Cyprus in a vulnerable situation, with the concern that its position in the resolution of East Med disputes is fast becoming extremely weak, if not impotent.”

Kathimerini (GR) /

An excuse for confrontation

Kathimerini describes Turkey's reaction:

“Ankara's behavior illustrates that it is not interested in an honest dialogue with Athens. The leaks concerning the exploratory talks pointed in that direction. But now it is clear that the Turkish government used the Greek-Egyptian maritime deal as an excuse to completely undermine the dialogue. The Greek government could not have allowed the memorandum of understanding on maritime boundaries signed between Turkey and Libya's internationally recognized government to go unanswered. Turkey is just looking for excuses or arguments in the service of various power centers in Ankara, which never wanted a rapprochement between the two countries in the first place.”

To Vima (GR) /

Order finally restored in the region

Petros Liakouras, a professor of international law at the University of Piraeus, approves of the agreement in To Vima:

“It makes the implementation of the controversial memorandum [between Libya and Turkey] more difficult. It ensures the restoration of the coastal rights of the islands in the eastern Mediterranean. In short, Greece regains access to these sea areas. The countries that have coasts here are Greece and Egypt, and there are no justified claims from third countries. The agreement safeguards their sovereign rights in relation to the continental shelf and exclusive economic zones.”


One area, two agreements

TVXS web portal anticipates further unrest:

“Neutral observers agree that the Turkish-Libyan agreement is a reality that must be addressed, regardless of whether the Greek Foreign Ministry symbolically discards it. ... There are currently two agreements in force between four different countries covering the same maritime area. However, Turkey's announcement that it is suspending the [recently commenced] explorations with Greece is impressive. This would be a continuation of the 'secret diplomacy' between Greece, Turkey and Germany about which the Greek public was not officially informed by the government. If this situation takes us as far as the International Court of Justice in The Hague, it will be a complicated process the outcome of which depends above all on whether the negotiations with the German EU Council presidency and Cyprus satisfy Ankara.”