“Defense Minister Akar’s words show Turkey’s seriousness towards Egypt”

“Defense Minister Akar’s words show Turkey’s seriousness towards Egypt”

The recent traffic of diplomacy between Ankara and Cairo has become a top topic in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has declared that Ankara was open to negotiate Exclusive Economic Zone borders in the Eastern Mediterranean with Egypt and displayed even readiness to sign an agreement. The Foreign Minister’s declarations called the “fragile relation” between Turkey and Egypt into attention.

United World International had asked the Egyptian former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rakha Hassan Ahmed for comment on Çavuşoğlu’s declaration. Hassan had pointed out to differences between the two countries concerning the application of the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and asked, “on what grounds” Turkey and Egypt were to agree on.

Turkey’s Minister of National Defense, Hulusi Akar, has made new declarations pointing to a possible path of solution.

Akar made his declarations within a videoconference to the participants of the Blue Homeland – 2021 naval drill.

Akar commented positively that Egypt’s recently announced an international bidding round for gas exploration respected the EEZ borders Turkey had declared before and registered at the UN. The Minister said:

“This is a very important development and we expect this to continue. We have many historical and cultural values in common with Egypt. When they are put in use, we consider that there may be different developments in the coming days. And I would like to let it be known that this decision Egypt has taken respecting our EEZ also serves the rights and interests of the Egyptian people. We evaluate that in the period ahead, we can work on negotiations, memorandum of understanding or a treaty with Egypt in accordance to the EEZ borders we have registered to the UN. In this regard, our Foreign Ministry continues the necessary work in coordination with relevant institutions, organizations, and ministries. This work continues and we expect a positive result.”

United World International has asked Ret. Lieut. General, former Head of Intelligence at the Chief of Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces on his comment on the recent developments between Turkey and Egypt and Minister Akar’s declarations:

Until today, the Foreign Ministry has always made declarations concerning Egypt. It is the first time that the Ministry of National Defense speaks to the topic as well. How is this to be interpreted? The beginning of new phase?

As you know, the Blue Homeland naval drill is taking place right now. The Minister Hulusi Akar has held the speech in the context of this naval drill and aboard a naval vessel. On the other hand, Greece keeps on its show of force. The Foreign Minister has held a meeting on March 3, and declared ‘negotiations with Egypt on the EEZ border limitations were possible’. Hulusi Akar spoke on March 6, and his declaration is like the continuation of the Foreign Minister’s speech. The Foreign Minister draws attention to the fact that Egypt has called a bidding round in respect to the maritime borders we have registered at the UN. That means, attention has been called on our continental shelf and our EEZ. Upon these remarks, comments in Egypt were made, asking “on what judicial ground” the agreement was to be based on. It is possible that now the Minister of Defense made this declaration in order to demonstrate that Turkey is taking this topic very seriously. The Foreign and Defense Ministries are working together; the matter is being taken very seriously. This speech was held to pronounce this message and show Turkey’s seriousness.

Customary law will be applied

Can Akar’s speech be interpreted as an answer to the Egyptian question, “on what grounds” the agreement should be settled?

Yes, of course. Akar’s declarations are at the same time an answer to the question on “which law to agree” on. As you now, there is the UN Convention of the Law of the Seas, dating from 1982. Turkey has not signed the convention, but this does not stop us from signing agreements based on it. Turkey has declared its EEZ in 1986 and signed according agreements with different countries since then. For instance, Israel is also making agreements on EEZ without having signed the UNCLOS. The US also has not signed the UNCLOS. The negotiations between Turkey and Egypt will be based on customary law; authorities of both countries will work together and sign a treaty on determining EEZ limits based on customary law. Turkey and Libya have taken this path, for instance.

As I said, Turkey is taking this matter very seriously. The fact that the Minister of Defense spoke on that matter on such an important drill as the Blue Homeland demonstrates the importance we deem to this issue. And it also shows that the works have achieved some progress. We might witness important developments in the next days. 

Ismail Hakkı Pekin

Retired Lt. Gen. Ismail Hakkı Pekin is the former Head of Türkiye’s General Staff Intelligence Agency between 2007-2011. He was born in 1951 in Iznik. He is married and is the father of two children.

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May 2024