Egypt, Cyprus and Greece: Consolidating a Mediterranean alliance

Dina Ezzat , Monday 20 Nov 2017

In Nicosia today President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi will pursue a closer engagement with two of his best Mediterranean partners: Cyprus and Greece

Sisi, Anastasiades, and Tsipras
File Photo: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (C), Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades (R) and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras chat outside the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus, April 29, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is expected to arrive Monday afternoon in Cyprus' capital Nicosia for talks with his counterpart Nicos Anastasiades.

During his visit to Egypt’s northern Mediterranean neighbour, El-Sisi is also expected to meet with Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister of Greece, considered in Egyptian diplomacy circles as one of the closest possible allies of Egypt in the European Union and in the Mediterranean zone.

The three leaders of Egypt, Cyprus and Greece were expected to hold a three-way summit to discuss their planned two-path cooperation: energy and security.

A top issue for the Egyptian president in Nicosia is the conclusion of a process to define maritime borders between Egypt and Greece. According to Egyptian and Greek sources, this process was launched a few years ago with firm support form both El-Sisi and Tsipras, who both wish to see this demarcation as a beginning for the full exploitation of the eastern Mediterranean's natural gas reserves.

“We cannot be exploring the potential fields without reaching an agreement on the demarcation with Greece,” explained an Egyptian official.

Egypt already reached a demarcation deal with Cyprus in 2004.

Iinformed European and Egyptian diplomats say that Cairo will go ahead with negotiating a three-way cooperation with an eye on two things: the first, to explore the potentially wide and generous natural gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean, and the second, to consider the construction of a gas pipeline to allow for potential gas finds to be imported to markets around the Mediterranean and across Europe.

This ambitious project is something that the three governments are hoping would allow for a significant economic advancement which they desire.

“I guess one could say that there is a firm political will in the three capitals to move forward, but that the actual implementation requires the completion of the work of the legal and technical teams,” according to the same Egyptian official.

Meanwhile, during his talks in Nicosia, President El-Sisi will express Egypt’s appreciation for the political "support" Cairo has found from both its Mediterranean neighbours during the early phase of political transition in Egypt in the summer of 2013 and until now.

Informed Egyptian and European sources say that Greece and Cyprus have been instrumental in lobbying support for Cairo in the EU.

Moreover, the Egyptian president will discuss his counterparts from Cyprus and Greece matters related to the security of the Mediterranean with an eye on the fluid situation in Libya that allows for the transition of arms and militants through Mediterranean borders, as well as the commitment taken upon themselves by the three countries to curb illegal migration.

Another Egyptian official said that the three countries have worked very well together, especially this year, to serve these targets.

He added that the three countries are currently working on a “framework” to upgrade this cooperation, “potentially in collaboration with other Mediterranean partners."

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