Egypt's president assures Greece of support against threats to sovereignty

Greece has faced challenges from Turkey over its maritime boundaries in the East Mediterranean

Egypt’s president on Monday reassured Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Cairo’s support against any attempts to breach the southern European nation's sovereignty.

“I have reassured the prime minister about Egypt’s constant position on the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and which is based on the necessity for all nations to respect international law and the UN charter," President Abdel Fattah El Sisi said after talks in Cairo with the visiting Greek leader.

"I emphasised our solidarity with Greece against any practices that could amount to a breach of its sovereignty.”

Mr El Sisi’s assurance is significant given the ongoing tensions between Greece and Turkey as well as Cairo’s recent engagement with Ankara to improve bilateral relations while maintaining its close ties with Greece and its ally Cyprus.

Egypt, Greece and Cyprus have forged close political and economic ties since Mr El Sisi took office in 2014. At the heart of their alliance, which has consistently opposed Turkey's ambitions, is their joint effort to turn the Eastern Mediterranean into an international energy hub following the discovery of massive natural gas reserves there.

Greece and Cyprus have long been at odds with Turkey.

Greece and Turkey have a long history of animosity that now centres around a territorial dispute in the Aegean Sea that is feeding tensions between the two neighbours.

Cyprus and Turkey on the other hand have been at loggerheads since 1974, when the latter invaded the Mediterranean island, ostensibly to protect the Turkish minority there. It has since occupied a third of the Greek-majority island.

This handout photograph released by the Turkish Defence Ministry on August 12, 2020, shows Turkish seismic research vessel 'Oruc Reis' (C) as it is escorted by Turkish Naval ships in the Mediterranean Sea, off Antalya on August 10, 2020.  Greece on August 11, demanded that Turkey withdraw a research ship at the heart of their growing dispute over maritime rights and warned it would defend its sovereignty, calling for an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers to resolve the crisis. Tensions were stoked August 10, when Ankara dispatched the research ship Oruc Reis accompanied by Turkish naval vessels off the Greek island of Kastellorizo in the eastern Mediterranean.
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Turkey has also been trying to muscle in on the energy project in the Eastern Mediterranean, arguing that it should not be left out and defiantly sending vessels to drill illegally off the coast of Cyprus. Its actions have drawn EU sanctions and growing regional suspicion of its policies.

Egypt has been at odds with Turkey too, over a range of bilateral and regional issues, but the two Muslim nations held talks recently to try and improve relations. However, the normalisation of relations between Cairo and Ankara seems far from imminent given the complexity of the issues the two sides differ on.

Mr Mitsotakis, making his third visit to Egypt since taking office in July 2019, said Greece and Egypt shared a desire to turn the Mediterranean into a “bond” between the people who live on its shorelines, rather than sowing divisions.

“We share common objectives and we try not to create new problems in the Middle East,” he said at the Ittihadiyah palace in Cairo, the seat of the Egyptian presidency.

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