Turkish, Israeli officials thought to be in secret talks as Erdogan eyes Med gas deal

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 14 May 2020

Turkish, Israeli officials thought to be in secret talks as Erdogan eyes Med gas deal

ANKARA: Officials from Israel and Turkey are thought to be in secret talks aimed at reaching a deal on maritime borders and exclusive economic zones in the eastern Mediterranean.

A similar agreement last November between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the UN-recognized Libyan government in Tripoli created uproar in Greece and Cyprus, who complained that it allowed Turkey to drill illegally for gas in their territorial waters.

Israel condemned that deal as illegal,  but said at the time that they “won’t be sending battleships to confront Turkey.”

However, any new agreement between Israel and Turkey could also affect Cyprus’s maritime borders and exclusive economic zones, and conflict with existing agreements between Israel and Cyprus, especially in terms of oil and gas exploration.

Aydin Sezer, a geopolitical analyst in Ankara, said such a deal would be politically and legally difficult. “Israel and Cyprus are part of maritime agreements that are fully in line with the internationally recognized maritime law as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” he told Arab News.

“If Israel entered into such an agreement with Turkey, it would have to annul these previous deals.”

Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece and the UAE last week condemned Turkey’s “illegal activities” and “expansionism” in searching for natural gas in Cypriot waters. 

However, Israel was not a signatory of that statement, and the Israeli Foreign Ministry said it was “proud of our diplomatic relations with Turkey.”


Iraq’s foreign minister makes first visit to Iran

Updated 6 min 15 sec ago

Iraq’s foreign minister makes first visit to Iran

  • Iran sees neighboring Iraq as a possible route to bypass US sanctions that President Donald Trump re-imposed in 2018

TEHRAN: Iraq’s foreign minister arrived Saturday in Tehran for bilateral talks with senior Iranian officials, according to the state-run news agency.
IRNA reported that Fuad Hussein planned to meet his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani, in what marked his first visit to the Iranian capital.
Zarif visited Baghdad in mid-July, when he met with Hussein and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. It was Zarif’s first visit to Iraq since a US airstrike in January killed a top Iranian general, Qassim Soleimani, outside Baghdad’s international airport. The strike catapulted Iraq to the brink of a US-Iran proxy war that could have destabilized the Middle East.
After Zarif’s trip, the Iraqi premier visited Iran in July.
The report did not elaborate on the main reasons behind the top Iraqi diplomat’s two-day trip to Tehran.
Iran sees neighboring Iraq as a possible route to bypass US sanctions that President Donald Trump re-imposed in 2018 after pulling the US out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
Last year, Iran’s exports to Iraq amounted to nearly $9 billion, the official IRNA news agency reported on Tuesday. It said the two nations will discuss increasing the amount to $20 billion.
Before the current global pandemic, some 5 million Iranian pilgrims annually brought in nearly $5 billion visiting Iraq’s Shiite holy sites.
Iran has seen the worst outbreak in the region, with more than 443,000 thousand confirmed cases and at least 25,300 deaths.
A news website affiliated with Iranian state TV, yjc.ir, reported that Iran canceled all its flights to Iraqi cities until the religious holiday of Arbaeen, due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. The holiday marks the end of the forty days of mourning that follow annually on the death anniversary of the seventh-century Muslim leader Hussein, who was killed at the Battle of Karbala during the tumultuous first century of Islam’s history.
Iran fought an eight-year war with Iraq that killed nearly 1 million people on both sides, after former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded in the early 1980s.