Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday heralded a deeper cooperation with Cyprus and Egypt aimed at marking out the countries’ marine zones, using careful language that suggested Greece will exclude a contested part of the Aegean from the talks to avoid causing friction with Turkey.
In comments after talks in Nicosia with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Egypt’s Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Tsipras said they “agreed to continue with consultations for delineating our sea zones, wherever this is deemed necessary, and of course where this does not require an understanding and cooperation with third countries.”
The last phrase differed from an agreement signed last November by then-Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in Cairo that expressed the intention “to speed up the negotiations for the delimitation of maritime zones, where this has not been defined yet.” Samaras’s initiative had triggered an angry response from Ankara over the suggestion Greece would seek to include the southern Aegean island of Kastellorizo in the country’s exclusive economic zone.
According to diplomatic sources, Tsipras’s more cautiously worded statement could be beneficial. It is likely to isolate Turkey as a country that refuses dialogue with states that want to exploit energy reserves off their coasts. It could also pave the way for hydrocarbon research in other parts of the Aegean.