Egyptian parliament approves maritime demarcation deal with Greece

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 18 Aug 2020

The bilateral deal was signed by Cairo and Athens earlier this month

A file photo of Egypt's Parliament (Photo: Reuters)

The Egyptian parliament on Tuesday approved a bilateral maritime border demarcation deal with Greece, after the body’s legislative and constitutional committee approved the agreement on Monday.

The deal was signed by the Egyptian and Greek foreign ministers in Cairo on 6 August.
The speaker of the House of Representatives, Ali Abdel-Aal, said that "the deal is in line with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas, and it was signed in line with international law, so no country has the right to undertake inspection works in the Mediterranean."
"The riches in the Mediterranean prompted some to act in a provocative way in the territorial waters and economic zones related to some countries," he added. "This deal comes to close the door on all those trying to explore in the East Mediterranean in a provocative way.”
A report prepared by the legislative and constitutional affairs committee said that MPs approved the deal after they had made sure that it is in line with Egypt's constitutional and legal systems.
"The deal between the two republics of Egypt and Greece is also in line with international law," said the report, adding that "it also includes establishing an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two countries."
The report said the deal aims at partially demarcating the maritime borders between the two parties in the Eastern Mediterranean.
"The demarcation of these borders will be completed when necessary and once consultations between the two countries on ‘point A’ and ‘point ‘E’ are finished, in line with international law," said the report.
The report indicates that the EEZ will be between “point A in the east" and "point E in the west" and in line with attached geographical formulations, and that it forms an integral part of the deal.
It said that any change in the geographical formulations between “point A in the east" and “point E in the west" must be concluded by a bilateral agreement between the two countries.
"If either of the two parties seek to sign an EEZ with a third country sharing maritime borders with the two countries, it shall inform the other party in advance and ahead of signing the deal with the third country."
The deal also states that if natural resources, including hydrocarbons, are found in an extension area of the EEZ of the two countries, there should be a new deal on how to utilise these resources, and that any disputes in this respect will be settled through diplomatic channels.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said in a press conference after the signing of the deal that its provisions are in line with international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
"The deal permits Egypt and Greece to go ahead with maximising benefits from riches available in the exclusive economic zones of both countries, particularly the promising gas and oil reserves," he stressed.
Shoukry also said that the new agreement paves the way for more regional cooperation between the Egyptian and Greek sides in the field of energy, given the two countries’ membership in the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum.
The forum’s members are Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Israel, Jordan, and Palestine.
The forum, which also includes Cyprus, Italy, Israel, Jordan, and Palestine, was established in January 2019 to "create a regional gas market, optimise resource development, cut the cost of infrastructure, offer competitive prices, and improve trade ties,” according to Egypt's petroleum ministry.
Shoukry added that “the friendly relationship between Egypt and Greece is a key pillar to preserving the security and stability of the Eastern Mediterranean and countering the threats stemming from irresponsible policies that support extremism and terrorism.”
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias described the deal as "historic" and said that it had come about following long rounds of negotiations.
The signing of the deal has generated tension between Greece and Turkey; Greece has accused Turkey of violating its sovereign maritime rights in the Mediterranean, while Turkish media has said that it deals a blow to a maritime border agreement between Turkey and Libya's Government of National Accord signed in Tripoli last year.
Reuters quoted the Turkish foreign ministry as saying that Turkey considers the agreement null and void and that the deal also violates Libya's maritime rights.
Tensions were already high between Greece and Turkey over the exploration of energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean. Greece had threatened that it would not hesitate to use force to stop Turkey's illegal exploration works in the Mediterranean.
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