Athens, December 6, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
With a rich agenda arrives in Athens the President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in what will be his first visit to Greece, to participate on Tuesday and Wednesday in the third trilateral summit between Greece, Cyprus and Egypt.
In a volatile political region such as the Southeastern Mediterranean and inside a triangle of instability, as the Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias likes to call the triangle formed by Ukraine, Libya and Syria, cooperation relations between Greece and Cyprus, Egypt Israel gradually forms a pole of stability, security and development.
Key points that will be discussed and confirmed in the forthcoming Tripartite Summit in Athens, are the promotion of a political solution to the crisis in Syria and Libya, the fight against international terrorism and ISIS, addressing the refugee crisis in conjunction with the increased immigration flows, as well as the strengthening of cooperation in the energy sector through the hydrocarbon resources in the Eastern Mediterranean region, respecting the principles of international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Meanwhile, there is urgent need for direct negotiations concerning the delimitation of adjacent marine zones, given the recently discovered gas deposits “Zohr” within Egypt’s EEZ, which might play a crucial factor for regional cooperation and prosperity.
Finally, it is important to develop closer cooperation with the EU in a number of areas relating to Egypt, since its role is influential for the security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean. As Nikos Kotzias keeps stressing, if Egypt slides into political instability, there will be a high risk for an even larger increase of refugee flows, both from Egypt and from neighboring countries who are under collapse, such as Sudan and Eritrea.
Apart from the given expanded cooperation that exists between Greece and Egypt, El-Sissi is expected to promote two major issues for himself and his country. The Egyptian president still feels insecure, despite having managed to improve his foothold in the country with the completion of construction works in the Suez Canal last August. This insecurity stems from the fact that ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood still have strong footholds within Egypt. The only safe course for him and his country seems to be the EU, and Greece in cooperation with Cyprus can play the role of the mediator if his authority comes into question.
The second issue high in the agenda of El-Sisi is the availability of hydrocarbons that have been found in the Egyptian EEZ. The safe and abundant market of Europe can be realised only through Greece and a further cooperation between the two countries will open this market for Egyptian gas.
On the other side, Alexis Tsipras has some issues of his own that require the cooperation of the Egyptian President, in order to be addressed. First and dominant issue is the establishment of the EEZ with Egypt, an issue that has been discussed between the two sides since last year. The recognition or not of Kastelorizo by the Egyptian side will mean a lot, both for the research and mining potential of gas deposits, and as a strong negotiation card on a possible future discussion with Turkey on the establishment of the Greek EEZ with it. According to IBNA’s information, Egypt has included Kastelorizo in the establishment of the EEZ since the first tripartite meeting with Antonis Samaras as prime minister, but it has been decided not been announced yet.
The second equally important issue, is the availability of Egypt to give part of the SEZ in the new Suez Canal to greek companies for the construction and development of this special economic zone. According to information from IBNA, initially the Egyptian side is prepared to give to greek companies an amount in the region of EUR 5 bn.
Both sides are optimistic and relations between the two leaders could not have been better for the accomplishment of their objectives.