According to various local news outlets, Egypt and Greece has established a newly formed an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) through the signing of a maritime demarcation deal on Thursday.
The signature of the deal, which was announced by Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry, was also highly commended by Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias at a joint press conference.
“The deal permits Egypt and Greece to go ahead with maximising benefits from riches available in the exclusive economic zones of both countries, particularly the promising gas and oil reserves,” stated Shoukry according to Al Ahram.
The Minister also stressed that the deal would not only improve bilateral ties between the two nations, but also provide more opportunities for cooperation in the field of energy.
The latter goal would also be facilitated by the fact that both Egypt and Greece are members of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF). EMGF, an international organization which gathers Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan and Palestine in a bid to create a regional gas market, has its headquarters in Cairo.
The agreement for the EEZ is the result of a dozen rounds of negotiations despite the introduction of the idea over three years ago, during a presidential visit of President Al Sisi to Athens.
As per a 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea definition, an EEZ is considered a zone giving coastal states the “sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil, and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents and winds.”
The newly-signed deal, however, effectively nullifies an existing memorandum between the Libya and Turkey over the same waters.
Indeed, oil and gas are important to Arab economies, especially Egypt which has over 50 international oil companies.
Italy’s ENI is the most prominent of these, having struck the much-publicized Zohr gas field in 2015. In its official press release, ENI described it as a “world class supergiant gas discovery,” with an estimated capacity of at least 30 trillion cubic feet of gas, almost doubling Egypt’s reserves.
“Zohr is the largest gas discovery ever made in Egypt and in the Mediterranean Sea and could become one of the world’s largest natural-gas finds,” the press release said. “This exploration success will give a major contribution in satisfying Egypt’s natural gas demand for decades.”
In 2017, Egypt had proven reserves of 3.3 billion barrels of oil and 62.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, prompting its government to have high hopes in developing identity as an energy hub in the Middle East.