Egypt warns Turkey over Eastern Mediterranean economic interests.
Egypt on Wednesday warned Turkey against any infringement of its economic rights in the eastern Mediterranean under a maritime border demarcation agreement signed in 2013 with Cyprus that allows exploration for gas in the area.
The discovery of the massive Zohr gas field in 2015 has spurred a race for exploration in the eastern Mediterranean, an area that is believed to hold big natural gas deposits crucial for energy-hungry Europe.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu appeared to raise objections over the 2013 agreement when he announced that Turkey was planning to start exploration work in the eastern Mediterranean soon.
Cavusoglu accused Greek Cypriots of conducting “unilateral hydrocarbon activities in the eastern Mediterranean.” He was speaking in an interview with Greek Kathimerini newspaper published on Sunday.
“Turkish Cypriots, as co-owners of the island, have inalienable rights to the natural resources around it,” he told the newspaper.
In response, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid warned against any attempt to contest the 2013 accord and said it had been deposited with the United Nations.
“Abu Zeid warned against any attempt to infringe or diminish Egypt’s rights in that area,” the statement said, adding that any such attempt “was rejected and would be confronted”.
Relations between Cairo and Ankara have been strained since then army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi toppled President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.
Egypt has started production from the massive Zohr gas field, which was discovered by Italy’s Eni with an estimated 30 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Turkish rejection of 2003 Egypt-Cyprus border demarcation is ‘unacceptable’: Egyptian FM
Egypt warned on Wednesday against any attempts to infringe or disparage its sovereign rights in the eastern Mediterranean’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), following statements by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu that a 2003 maritime border demacration agreement between Egypt and Cyprus was invalid.
In an official statement, Egypt foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said that any attempts to breach Egypt’s rights were “unacceptable” and would be contested, slamming Cavusoglu’s statements.
On Tuesday, Turkish FM Cavusoglu told the Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini in an interview that his country considers the maritime border demarcation agreement “null and void, according to international law.”
“Turkey has submitted to the UN its objection to the Egyptian-Greek Cypriot agreement of 2003 regarding to the so-called ‘Delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone,'” the minister said.
“After thorough examination, we have clearly stated that the agreement violates Turkey’s continental shelf,” he added.
Cavusoglu continued that “No foreign country, company, or vessel may conduct any unauthorized hydrocarbon or scientific research activity on Turkey’s continental shelf.”
Responding to the Turkish foreign minister’s statements, Abu Zeid said that no party can contest the agreement’s validity, “as it is in line with the principles of international law and has been recognized as an international agreement by the UN.”
The statement by the Turkish FM comes nearly one week after Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi emphasized the importance of Egypt’s eastern Mediterranean border agreements in regards to oil and gas exploration.
Relations between Turkey and Egypt have been strained since the 2013 ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, a close ally of Erdogan’s AKP government.
Erdogan has repeatedly slammed Morsi’s removal as a “coup.”
Cairo has repeatedly accused Ankrara of “interference” in its domestic affairs and of supporting Islamist militants who carry out terrorist attacks in Egypt.