Egypt’s adherence to the Turkish continental shelf during its recent energy exploration work in the eastern Mediterranean was met with a favorable response from Ankara and a confused reaction in Athens.
What this means is that Egypt respects the agreement reached between Turkey and Libya in November 2019, to demarcate the maritime borders between the two countries.
This respect shown by the Egyptian side was the main reason behind the state of confusion or panic that afflicted the Greek capital, Athens.
On the Turkish side, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was the first to comment on this positive development, saying that he welcomes this step by Egypt.
During a press conference with his Georgian counterpart in Ankara, Cavusoglu also added: "As two countries that have the two longest coasts in the eastern Mediterranean, if the circumstances of our relations permit, we can also negotiate and sign an agreement to demarcate the maritime borders with Egypt."
It was not long before Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar issued a statement that was remarkable and very interesting, referring to the common historical and cultural values between Turkey and Egypt, and then he added a very important phrase: "Various developments may take place in the coming days."
Senior Turkish official: Nothing has been determined yet
We remember well that when Egypt signed the maritime border demarcation agreement with Greece last year, it showed respect for the southern boundaries of the Turkish continental shelf and refused to demarcate the borders from the island of Meis.
The recent gesture made by Egypt can be considered the second positive step on this path.
When examining this issue, I tried to take the pulse of some of the circles closely familiar with this issue in Ankara. High-ranking officials provided answers to the following two questions that I posed: "Can it be said that we have an agreement with Egypt? Can we expect new developments in the eastern Mediterranean dossier in the coming days?"
And the following was their reply: "There have already been technical talks, and there is no doubt that the recent developments were a welcomed message. In our turn, we have made clear repeatedly that we are ready to sign maritime borders demarcation agreements with countries of the region, including Egypt."
I would like to convey to you the answer of another official who is very intimately familiar with this issue, he spoke in a somewhat cautious language, where he said: "So far, nothing has been determined, and the talks are still ongoing."
Everyone knows that there have been talks for some time between the intelligence services of the two countries. But until now, it is not clear what results may emerge from these secret talks, and whether steps will be taken on the level of normalization of relations between the two countries.
Meanwhile, we have to keep in mind that the Sisi administration in Egypt is always open to what some countries dictate to it, mainly the UAE, in other words; If one of these countries said "no," then this would translate into a decision that would make it difficult for the Sisi administration to disobey.
Therefore, when dealing with recent developments, I think it serves us well to be careful in matters related to the course of relations with Egypt.
The panic of Greece and the disappointment of Southern Cyprus
The tension in relations between Turkey and Egypt following the military coup that took place in 2013, coinciding with the tension in relations between Turkey and some Gulf countries at that time, made Greece use this as an opportunity to achieve its maximalist demands in the Eastern Mediterranean, and take many steps to tilt things in its own favor.
In this context, it established close relations with both Cairo and Abu Dhabi, and conducted high-level visits between these parties.
However, the recent development on the Egyptian side made Athens administration experience a real state of panic, not knowing how to act or comment.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mikotakis rushed to hold a phone call with Sisi, to dissuade him from demarcating the boundaries of the excavation plot No. 18, which was mindful of the borders of the continental shelf that Turkey defined in its agreement with Libya.
Immediately after this call, a tour was prepared for the Greek Foreign Minister, Nikos Dendias, who is slated to visit Cairo on Monday, and from there he will head to Cyprus.
One of the issues of contention between Egypt and Greece is the "East-Med Gas Pipeline" project, which was developed to transfer the underground wealth of the Eastern Mediterranean to European markets. Despite Mikotakis' meeting with Sisi, a solution is yet to be found.
If the Egyptian vision regarding this project is realized, then the administration of Southern Cyprus will be excluded or have no seat at the table in the Eastern Mediterranean. This situation, in turn, made Greek Cypriots uncomfortable, naturally.
We can say that the moves of the Greek foreign minister, between Cairo and Nicosia, will aim at finding a compromise to get out of the conundrum over this issue.
As for Turkey, it knows very well the opportunity this type of disagreement affords it, and therefore it wants to work through issues with Cairo that would result in achieving a favorable outcome in the Eastern Mediterranean.
But as I tried to explain above, I would like to remind you that there is still some kind of cautious handling of this dossier in the circles that directly deal with this issue.
Therefore, we conclude by emphasizing: Although the Greek confusion is something to revel in, at the same time it does not necessarily mean that the final results will be in Ankara’s favor.