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

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (AP)
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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.”


Coronavirus claims over 20,000 lives across Mideast, half in Iran

Updated 25 min 11 sec ago

Coronavirus claims over 20,000 lives across Mideast, half in Iran

  • 907,736 reported infections and 20,005 deaths from the COVID-19
  • Iran has been struggling to contain the outbreak since announcing its first cases

PARIS: The novel coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 20,000 people across the Middle East, half of them in Iran, according to an AFP tally at 1000 GMT Sunday based on official tolls.
But despite having 907,736 reported infections and 20,005 deaths from the COVID-19 illness, the Middle East has been relatively lightly hit by the virus which has killed over half a million people across the globe.
Iran, which has been struggling to contain the outbreak since announcing its first cases in February, has reported more than 12,829 deaths and 257,303 infections, according to Sunday’s official figures.
With a population of more than 80 million, Iran is the 9th worst-affected country in the world and has seen the region’s deadliest outbreak.
Infections in the Islamic republic have been on the rise since early May, prompting authorities to make wearing masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces.
On Sunday the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the resurgence “truly tragic” and urged all citizens to help rein it in.
In the region covered by Iran in the north and east, Israel in the west and Yemen in the south, the other worst-hit countries are Iraq and neighboring Kuwait, as well as Saudi Arabia and war-torn Yemen.
Iraq is the second-most affected nation in the Middle East with 3,055 deaths and 75,194 infections, followed by Saudi Arabia with 2,181 deaths and 229,480 infections.
Yemen, one of the world’s poorest nations, has recorded 464 deaths and 1,380 infections, while Kuwait has confirmed 386 deaths and 54,058 infections.
Iran also ranks as the region’s worst-affect country on a per-capita basis, with 153 deaths per million — 25th worldwide — followed by Kuwait with 90 deaths per million and Saudi Arabia with 63.
According to the AFP tally, the average number of deaths in the region is 43 per million inhabitants, against a global average of around 70.
The Middle East represents around 3.5 percent of all global deaths, far behind Europe (one third), North America (one quarter) and Latin America and the Caribbean (one quarter).