Turkish and Egyptian foreign ministers agreed to set up delegations to discuss an Egyptian-Greek Cypriot deal that paves the way for oil and gas exploration by Greek Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean, diplomatic sources said yesterday. The agreement came during a meeting between FM Abdullah Gül and his Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Abdul Gheit.
In 2005, Egypt signed a deal with Greek Cyprus to delineate their undersea borders in the Mediterranean and the limits of Greek Cyprus' continental shelf. Greek Cyprus signed a similar accord with Lebanon earlier this year. Turkey, which opposes the Greek Cypriot oil and gas exploration plans, warned the two countries to stop the agreements, saying Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots also had legitimate rights and interests in the region.Gül, speaking to reporters before his meeting with Gheit in Islamabad, on the sidelines of a meeting of foreign ministers from seven Muslim countries to discuss the Middle East, lashed out at the Greek Cypriot bid.
Ankara doesn't recognize the Greek Cypriot-Egyptian and Greek Cypriot-Lebanese accords as, according to the international law, both sea boundaries between countries and limits of the continental shelf of each country need to be delineated via consensus among all coastal and neighboring countries when the issue is a semi-closed sea like the East Mediterranean, but not an ocean. A meeting of all coastal states on exclusive economic zones in the Mediterranean, however, is unlikely because of ongoing disputes between some of the states concerned.
The crisis deepened when Greek Cyprus ignored warnings from Turkey and launched an international licensing round for offshore exploration of oil and gas earlier this month. During a visit to Greece last week, Greek Cypriot leader Tassos Papadopoulos secured support from Athens.
The Egyptian foreign minister, who met Gül at the Turkish Embassy in Islamabad, assured that Egypt would
not undertake any action that would harm Turkey
's national interests.
Gül to attend Arab League meeting
The two ministers also reiterated a consensus that a meeting of foreign ministers from countries neighboring Iraq should convene in Cairo, while preparatory talks between high-level officials from neighboring countries could take place in Baghdad, sources said.
Source: Today's Zuman