Op/Ed: Reading between the lines of the trilateral cooperation between Greece-Cyprus-Egypt

Op/Ed: Reading between the lines of the trilateral cooperation between Greece-Cyprus-Egypt

 

By Spiros Sideris

The four millennia-long cultural relationship between Greece, Egypt and Cyprus, was definitely not the reason behind the trilateral cooperation of the three countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, even though I was the first reference in the joint statement of the three leaders.

The main reason for this cooperation was the rapid developments in the broader Eastern Mediterranean region, both politically and economically. Each of the leaders had his own agenda in this meeting, which translated into different requests. The common component was the safeguarding of national, but also of their personal interests.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, trapped in the decisions of the lenders, needed a success that would give him points against the opposition, which is pounding him mercilessly for his economic choices. After the victory of El-Sisi, Samaras found on the face of the Egyptian leader, an interlocutor, who could solve issues unresolved for many years, such as the delimitation of the Greek EEZ. Given the common foreign policy with Cyprus, and the establishment of the cooperation in energy level with Israel, Egypt came to complete a cooperation block that will ensure – for as long as this collaboration lasts – the seamless efforts for finding and extracting hydrocarbons on the Greek EEZ. At the same time, Greece is becoming a factor of stability and cooperation in an area with many open fronts and confrontations. Whichever way one looks at it, it constitutes a success for Greece and the Greek Prime Minister.

For the first time, says to IBNA a close associate of Prime Minister, there is a strategic planning in greek foreign policy, regarding the economic and geopolitical development of Greece and Europe in the Southeastern Mediterranean.

Nicos Anastasiades, on his part, has found another ally against Turkey, since after the public Communication of three leaders it became clear that Egypt – the position of Greece was already known – speaks of the need to respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus and calls Turkey to stop all ongoing seismographic research within the Cyprus maritime area. Also, in the joint statement is emphasised the need for a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to the Cyprus problem, in accordance with international law. In a difficult time for the Republic of Cyprus, in which the allied countries of the EU did not stand behind Cyprus – to the extend the Cypriot leadership would want – on the provocative actions of Turkey, the cooperation with Egypt partly “shields” discussions and negotiations with Turkey , after the close energy – and not only – relationship between Cyprus and Israel.

If Greece and Cyprus, had Turkey in the back of their minds in this cooperation, the Egyptian President, couldn’t care less for it. It is clear in Muslim countries that the vision of the Neo-Ottomanism of Ahmet Davutoglu, has no prospect and has failed to be accepted by the dominant countries of the Muslim world, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia etc. This primarily concerns of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is survival in a divided country, with many survival and democracy problems preoccupying its people. In that regard, the support of the EU and USA to him is the only way. Greece and Cyprus, both of them EU countries, with the former also being a NATO member, provide this support generously. The El-Sisi having gotten what he wanted – the support of the West – essentially re-enters the energy game, as he can provide the infrastructure to Greece and Cyprus for the storage and disposal of the natural wealth of the two countries. The only imponderable factor that can cause problems to this cooperation is whether El-Sisi can retain the power in his country, which is something no one can guarantee.

On its part, Turkey, is primarily perplexed. It will definitely react, but its arguments now are minimal if it chooses to move within the framework of International Law. Its alliances – with no fault but its own – have dwindled. An escalation of the tension from its part would cause more problems than it would solve. Is it time for a policy “facelift”? Nobody knows. But time will tell if Turkey will return to a more realistic policy, which will once again make it a protagonist in the region.