Cairo: Greece’s top diplomat arrived in Cairo on Sunday to hold talks with Egyptian officials on issues such as controversial sea and gas deals Turkey has signed with Libya’s rival administration, officials said.
Foreign Minister Nicos Dentias landed at Cairo airport and later held talks with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Choukry, according to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry. After that, the two ministers will hold a press conference, the ministry said.
Egypt and Greece have strengthened their ties in recent years, including cooperation in areas ranging from energy to the fight against terrorism. Both countries and Cyprus have signed maritime boundary agreements. The ministry’s spokesman, Ahmed Abu Zeid, described Egyptian-Greek relations as a “long-term strategic partnership and historic friendship.”
Ahead of his visit, Dentias wrote on Twitter that apart from Greece-Egypt relations, discussions will focus on developments in the Aegean Sea, Libya and the Middle East.
He was referring to tensions with Turkey over Greece’s alleged shipment of dozens of US-made armored vehicles to the Aegean islands of Samos and Lesbos. He also noted the memorandums of understanding between Turkey and the government of one of Libya’s two competing governments, Abdul Hamid Dibeba.
The agreements, signed last week in the Libyan capital Tripoli, provide for joint exploration of offshore waters and hydrocarbon reserves in Libya’s national territory. Dentias said the agreements were illegal and constituted an invasion of Greek territorial waters. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry argued that Dbeibah’s government “does not have the authority to enter into international agreements or memorandums of understanding” and that its mandate had expired.
Libya has been in turmoil since a NATO-backed uprising ousted and then ousted former dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Most of the country has been ruled by rival governments for the past decade. Two administrations now claim to be legitimate: Dibeba in Tripoli and another government appointed by parliament and headed by Prime Minister Fathi Bashaqa.
Jalel Harchoui, a Libya expert at the Royal United Services Institute, said Turkey’s deals with the Dibaba government had “little legal value” and were intended to provoke Greece.
He said they were “part of the hyper-nationalist politics of self-assertion that a weak and unpopular (President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan is trying to cultivate ahead of the June 2023 elections.”
Erdoğan’s government took advantage of Dipepa’s weak position when Başaka tried to install his government in the capital in August after Turkey helped him defend his position, Harchouy said. Turkey has allied itself with Syrian troops and mercenaries in the Libyan capital.
“Dibeba is not in a position to say ‘no’ (to MoUs). Turkey has been instrumental in keeping him in Tripoli so far, so he has no choice but to give his approval,” he wrote.
Libya’s prime minister supported the deals, saying they would help Libya continue oil and gas exploration “in our territorial waters with the help of neighboring countries.”
Turkey’s deals with the Dibaba government come three years after another controversial accord between Ankara and a former government in Tripoli. The 2019 deal gave Turkey access to a disputed economic zone in the gas-rich eastern Mediterranean, fueling Turkey’s pre-existing tensions with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt over oil drilling rights and gas in the region.
This text is a translation of an article published on Arabnews.com
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