Turkey offered a maritime deal to Egypt like the one signed between Ankara and the UN-recognised Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) last year, Turkey’s Foreign Minister has claimed in an interview.“We told Egypt’s charge d’affaires that we could reach a (jurisdiction) agreement with them just like we did with Libya,” Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview with CNN Turk, without specifying details.
Despite a maritime deal demarcating its exclusive economic zone with Turkish regional foe Greece, Cavusoglu noted that Egypt had not violated “the Turkish continental shelf”.
The agreement was a response to the one signed between Turkey and Libya’s Tripoli-based government last year that spiked tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean. Egypt, Cyprus and Greece dismissed it as an infringement on their economic rights in the oil-rich sea.
The Turkish foreign minister’s comments to CNN Turk reflected those of Professor Yasin Aktay, a chief advisor to President Reccep Tayyib Erdogan, who on Monday told Araby21 there had been “rapprochement and contact” between Ankara and Cairo.
Media reports in Turkish and Arabic have spoken of high-level intelligence contact between the two sides over recent months.
Relations between the sides deteriorated following the 2013 military coup that led to the ousting of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammad Morsi, a key Turkish ally.
Under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Cairo has become increasingly dependent on the financial and political backing of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a dependency which has deepened the rift with Turkey amid an intense geopolitical standoff between Ankara and the Gulf powers.
In Libya’s proxy war, Egypt joined its Gulf allies on the opposite side from Turkey and backed the rival administration based in eastern Libya and east-based military commander Khalifa Haftar.
Cairo claims Turkey is backing extremists on behalf of the UN-supported government in Tripoli.
With Turkish military support, the Tripoli government repelled Haftar’s 14-month-long military campaign to capture the Libyan capital.
In response, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi threatened a military incursion into Libya, leading to concerns of a direct Egyptian-Turkish confrontation.
In the interview with CNN Turk, Turkey’s foreign minister also told the broadcaster that return of a seismic research vessel to Turkey was for “routine periodic maintenance” not a “concession” to Greece.
Last weekend, Turkey’s Oruc Reis exploration vessel and its accompanying fleet of warships ended their month-long mission near a Greek island and pulled back to shore, cooling an intense standoff between Ankara and Athens over disputed maritime resources in the eastern Mediterranean.