New tensions in East Med:  Egypt signs strategic maritime deal with Greece

Eastern Mediterranean is rapidly morphing into a conflict zone, where rather than naval battles competing claims about maritime sovereignty are  the weapon of choice.  Egypt, Israel, Turkey, both government in Cyprus and Greece are engaged in a desperate race to grab maritime territory with dreams of unearthing hydrocarbon riches believed to lie underneath the sea floor.


Egypt’s president signs strategic maritime deal with Greece

(AP) — Egypt’s president Saturday ratified a maritime deal setting its Mediterranean Sea boundary with Greece and demarcating an exclusive economic zone for oil and gas drilling rights, the state-run news agency reported, in a move that has angered Turkey.

The bilateral agreement is widely seen as a response to a rival deal between Turkey and Libya’s Tripoli-based government that spiked tensions in the East Mediterranean region, along with Turkey’s disputed oil and gas exploration in the seawaters.

The MENA news agency said that the deal, signed by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, was published by the official gazette on Saturday.

The ratification came over two months after the Egyptian and Greek foreign ministers signed the deal in Cairo.

The Egypt-Greece deal establishes “partial demarcation of the sea boundaries between the two countries, and that the remaining demarcation would be achieved through consultations.”

Egyptian Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Al had in August called the deal with Greece “very significant.”

The Ankara-Tripoli maritime deal was dismissed by the governments of Egypt, Cyprus and Greece as infringing on their economic rights in the gas-rich Mediterranean Sea.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the Egypt-Greece agreement “worthless,” vowing to keep his disputed pact with the Tripoli government in place.

What next?

The EU has called for a multi-national conference to resolve maritime demarcation disputes peacefully, which would be a great opportunity for Egypt, Turkey and Israel to iron out other problems  which mar a great alliance among the trio, which had once been seen as the linchpin of regional stability.

It is not clear whether it will take place.  In the absence of a peaceful division of East Med, all rivals stand to lose. Natural gas prices are already at historical lows, rendering development of new fields less likely, while multinational energy and exploration firms are less likely to get involved in  potential finds in fear of litigation or naval harassment.

To add,  the conflict over East Med waters stokes proxy wars in place like Iraq, Syria and Libya jeopardizing stability and the flow of desperately needed foreign capital into these poor and war ravaged countries. Instead of reaping the hydrocarbon riches for growth and development, combatants are likely to suffer more economic distress, as the cost of feeding proxies and re-armament  drains already strained budgets.


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Published By: Atilla Yeşilada

GlobalSource Partners’ Turkey Country Analyst Atilla Yesilada is the country’s leading political analyst and commentator. He is known throughout the finance and political science world for his thorough and outspoken coverage of Turkey’s political and financial developments. In addition to his extensive writing schedule, he is often called upon to provide his political expertise on major radio and television channels. Based in Istanbul, Atilla is co-founder of the information platform Istanbul Analytics and is one of GlobalSource’s local partners in Turkey. In addition to his consulting work and speaking engagements throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East, he writes regular columns for Turkey’s leading financial websites VATAN and and has contributed to the financial daily Referans and the liberal daily Radikal.