Turkey and Egypt come closer and hope to reach an agreement on maritime borders

Mevlut Cavusoglu expressed optimism about the possibility of reaching an agreement with Abdel Fatah al-Sisi's side
Atalayar_Mevlut Cavusoglu

AP/DARKO BANDIC  -   Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has announced his country's intention to reach an agreement with Egypt on the demarcation of the maritime borders between the two states. He did so during a press conference with Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani, in which he said that "according to the course of our relations, we can negotiate with Egypt on the areas of maritime jurisdiction and sign an agreement".

Çavuşoğlu wanted to highlight and commend Egypt's behaviour with regard to its oil and natural gas exploration activities. Egypt respected the area 18 and the continental shelf of the country led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as a boundary. Not only that, they also respected these limitations when signing an agreement with Greece establishing an exclusive economic zone between the two states: "Also last year, when Egypt signed an agreement with Greece, it respected Turkey's southern continental shelf", the Turkish foreign minister added at a press conference. Erdogan's government sees this as "positive" in terms of sitting down to negotiate an agreement on its maritime borders.

Just a month ago, Turkish government spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in an interview on state television that 'Egypt is one of the important countries in the region and in the Arab world' and that "if Egypt shows the will to move forward with a positive agenda on regional issues, then Turkey is ready to respond to it". He intends to put behind him the historical disputes that have driven a wedge between the two countries. The Libyan crisis, the Muslim Brotherhood and gas exploration in the Mediterranean are some of the issues whose discrepancies had made it impossible, at least until now, for the two countries to sit down at a dialogue table to discuss the maritime issue.

Atalayar_Sameh Shoukry
PHOTO/GEHAD HAMDY - Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry

The agreement between Greece and Egypt to which Cavusoglu referred did not always meet with Turkey's approval. Indeed, the minister himself was at the time very unhappy with the pact they signed in August 2020. He even went so far as to say that: "Turkey will not allow any activity in this region and is determined to continue to defend the legitimate rights and interests of our country and the Turkish Cypriots without hesitation". In the same statement, it referred to the 2003 attempt by both Egypt and Greece to plunder the rights of the people of Libya, when Cairo signed a maritime treaty with Cyprus, whereby Nicosia relinquished 11,500 square kilometres.

Moreover, Ankara argues that the Greek islands should not be taken into consideration when calculating the maritime zones of economic interest. Greece argues that this would be a violation of international law, as it has more than 6,000 islands and islets in the Ionian and Aegean Seas, more than 200 of which are inhabited. 
Tension had already existed around these discrepancies since late 2019 when Turkey reached an agreement with Libya to delimit its maritime borders in an area very close to the Greek islands of Rhodes and Crete, which are among the group not recognised by Ankara. However, Nikos Dendias, Greece's foreign minister, said at the time that the Turkey-Lebanon deal was "illegal, invalid and legally non-existent".

After years of disputes, it seems that the parties are willing to compromise and reach an agreement that will put an end to the diplomatic confrontations that have long united them and open a new stage of understanding, thus putting an end to the disputes.