Interview with Middle East analyst Stephan Roll"Egypt's leadership feels markedly threatened by Turkey"
Greece and Egypt have been negotiating the division of their respective EEZs for almost 15 years. As of 13 August, they have an agreement, signed by the Greek and Egyptian foreign ministers in Cairo. Why the sudden rush?
Stephan Roll: This agreement is directly related to the EEZ agreement signed by Turkey and Libya in November 2019, which Greece and Egypt saw as a massive violation of their interests. I don't know to what extent Athens and Cairo negotiated a perfect agreement. In the end, it was a question of putting Turkey in its place.
The EEZ agreement between Greece and Egypt does not take into account the areas east of the island of Rhodes to the easternmost Greek island of Kastellorizo. Those negotiations are still on-going. Why is that?
Roll: The most important thing was to send a message to Ankara, as quickly as possible, making it clear that they would not tolerate Turkey re-defining its maritime borders. That could explain why the agreement was signed now and why the details still need to be negotiated.
We're seeing a tense situation between Greece and Turkey, but also between Egypt and Turkey. What is that all about?
Roll: First and foremost, it is clearly about gas deposits. It is very important for Egypt to develop them: The country's energy strategy rests on large-scale gas exports. But, ultimately, this conflict with Turkey is much, much bigger. It goes back to the 2013 military coup in Egypt, which targeted the ruling Muslim Brotherhood.
Cairo accuses Turkey of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and to an extent that is true. Many senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood are in exile in Turkey. Egypt's leadership feels markedly threatened by Turkey, which it has accused of planning a countercoup.
The Turkish-Libyan EEZ agreement and Turkey's engagement in Libya have infused the current conflict with a new dynamic. The fact that Turkey is very active in Libya and has sent mercenaries to the country to fight on the side of the government against General Haftar, who in turn is supported by Egypt, is a new situation for Cairo. Cairo feels extremely threatened by the fact that Ankara is suddenly part of the action in its own backyard.
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