Following a Tuesday meeting in Nicosia, Egypt’s Petroleum Minister Sherif Ismail and Cypriot counterpart Yiorgos Lakkotrypis agreed to expedite discussions on exporting natural gas from Cyprus to Egypt.
The agreement comes as part of a series of trilateral meetings between Egypt, Greece and Cyprus aimed at fostering economic and security cooperation across the Mediterranean basin.
Egypt is suffering from an acute energy shortage, while Cyprus’ offshore territories are believed to contain vast reserves of natural gas. A 2011 survey by US-based firm Noble Energy indicated that one offshore exploration block contained at least five trillion cubic feet of gas.
While Cyprus is not yet producing gas, Egypt has indicated that it is interested in purchasing as much as Cyprus can supply.
The recent meetings exclude Turkey, which has found itself at odds with each of the countries in the new alliance.
Turkey is the only country in the world that does not recognize the ethnic Greek dominated Republic of Cyprus, instead backing the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Turkey has opposed Cypriot exploration of offshore resources, saying any deals reached would disregard the rights of Turkish Cypriots to a share in the profits.
Instead, Turkey has launched its own explorations in offshore waters claimed by Cyprus, sending a research vessel accompanied by a naval escort. Greece has backed Cyprus, calling on Turkey to cease exploration in the so-called Exclusive Economic Zone.
Egypt’s relationship with Turkey has soured since the overthrow of former President Mohamed Morsi. The ruling AK Party was a supporter and ideological ally of the Morsi regime, and has called current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi “illegitimate.”
In response to the recent trilateral meetings, Turkey and Northern Cyprus have declared that no one can block them from access to the Mediterranean.
“Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus cannot be excluded from the East Mediterranean, we have rights on the natural resources of Cyprus, and we will not give up those rights,” said Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Tuesday, according to pro-government Turkish paper Daily Sabah.
Egypt and Cyprus, on the other hand, declared that exploring hydrocarbon reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean “could and must serve as a catalyst for a broader cooperation on regional level, contributing thus to the peace and stability in the region.”