Egypt’s president in Greece on 1st visit since maritime deal

Egypt’s president is meeting with Greek officials in Athens, on his first visit to the southern European nation since the two countries signed a deal demarcating maritime boundaries between them in the eastern Mediterranean. (AP)
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Updated 11 November 2020

Egypt’s president in Greece on 1st visit since maritime deal

  • President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi was holding talks with the Greek president and prime minister in the morning
  • In August, Greece and Egypt signed a maritime deal demarcating the two countries’ maritime boundaries

ATHENS, Greece: Greece’s prime minister said Wednesday that he expects U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's incoming administration to play a more active role in attempting to calm tension in the eastern Mediterranean.
“We have every reason to welcome, along with all our partners in the region, the return of the United States to its central role as a leader of NATO,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said after a meeting in Athens on Wednesday with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi.
Greece and Egypt are at odds with Turkey in a volatile maritime boundary dispute in the eastern Mediterranean over rights to search for and exploit natural gas deposits.
The European Union and the United States have both criticized Turkey’s ongoing maritime research missions in waters where Greece asserts jurisdiction. But Athens says it expects a Biden administration to be more engaged in the dispute.
“I believe that Greece and Egypt will welcome and have a positive attitude toward the determination of America’s contribution to the events of the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean in our troubled region,” Mitsotakis said.
The dispute between Greece and Turkey triggered a major military buildup over the summer that raised concerns of military confrontation.
Turkey argues that Greek islands along its coastline are blocking its access to undersea gas deposits and that boundaries should be set around the mainland and not include the islands. A Turkish research vessel, the Oruc Reis, is currently continuing a survey in a maritime area between Turkey's coast, southeast Greek islands, and Cyprus. Greece’s Foreign Ministry condemned a new notification to mariners by Turkey extending the research through Nov. 23, which it said covered an area of the Greek continental shelf.
The ministry said Turkey was “repeatedly violating the International Law of the sea and undermining peace and stability in the region.”
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias had given instructions for a complaint to be lodged with Turkey over the move, the ministry said. Turkey’s behavior, it said, “pushes further away any prospects of a constructive dialogue” between Greece and Turkey. Michael Carpenter, a foreign policy advisor to Biden, said that the new administration could seek closer cooperation with France, Germany and other European nations in its policy concerning Turkey and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“I do think and I am hopeful that when a President Erdogan sees a united front, that suggests that there is room for cooperation, but also that there are very negative consequences to pursuing a more aggressive policy, then he will have a rethink,” said Carpenter, managing director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
He made the remarks Monday, speaking by video link at a diplomatic conference organized in Greece.
In Athens for a two-day visit, el-Sisi also met with Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, while Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry will sit down with Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias in the evening.
In August, Greece and Egypt signed a maritime deal demarcating the two countries’ maritime boundaries and setting out respective exclusive economic zones for the exploitation of resources such as oil and gas drilling.
The agreement, which remains partial, angered Turkey, which has accused Greece of trying to grab an unfair share of resources in the eastern Mediterranean.
The Greece-Egypt deal was widely seen as a response to a disputed agreement reached earlier between Turkey and Libya’s Tripoli-based administration that increased tension in the region.
Greece, Cyprus and Egypt widely criticized the deal between Ankara and Tripoli, saying it infringed on their economic rights.

Zarif ‘desperate’ to blame Saudi Arabia for anything negative that happens in Iran: Al-Jubeir

Updated 4 min 44 sec ago

Zarif ‘desperate’ to blame Saudi Arabia for anything negative that happens in Iran: Al-Jubeir

  • “It is not the policy of Saudi Arabia to engage in assasinations; unlike Iran” minister tweeted

JEDDAH: Iran’s parliament on Tuesday approved a bill requiring the government to boost uranium enrichment by 20 percent and end UN inspections of its nuclear facilities.

The move is being viewed by analysts as a show of defiance after the recent killing of prominent Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an assassination for which Tehran has accused other countries of masterminding.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir said on Tuesday that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif was “desperate” to blame the Kingdom for anything negative that happened in Iran.

“Will he blame us for the next earthquake or flood?” he tweeted. “It is not the policy of Saudi Arabia to engage in assassinations; unlike Iran, which has done so since the Khomeini Revolution in 1979.

“Ask us and ask many other countries who have lost many of their citizens due to Iran’s criminal and illegal behavior,” Al-Jubeir added.

The latest bill would require another parliamentary vote to pass, as well as approval by the Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog. Moreover, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on all nuclear policies.

“There is no doubt that this step constitutes a threat, raising it to 20 percent means that it is close to building a nuclear bomb,” political analyst and international relations scholar Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News. “The region is promised with a dark and unstable period.”

He said that the move indicated the Iranian regime’s insistence on destabilizing the region, and its determination to win the race to obtain nuclear weapons.

Enriching uranium to 20 percent is below the threshold needed for nuclear weapons but higher than that required for civilian applications. It would also commission new centrifuges at nuclear facilities at Natanz and the underground Fordo site.

“Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons or its proximity to achieving that goal will be a great danger to the region, and countries will seek to protect themselves, which will mean that everyone will resort to obtaining nuclear weapons. Fakhrizadeh’s death suggests that Iran was waiting for this opportunity to escalate,” Al-Shehri added.

The official IRNA news agency said 251 lawmakers in the 290-seat chamber voted in favor, after which many began chanting slogans against the US and Israel.

The bill would give European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal three months to ease sanctions on Iran’s key oil and gas sector, and to restore its access to the international banking system.

“Many technical issues related to the nuclear bomb creation were not closely followed up by P5+1 (the UN Security Council’s permanent members of China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US, plus Germany),” said Al-Shehri.

“We also should not forget that Iran was not clear and was preventing and limiting inspections at its nuclear facilities, moreover, the International Atomic Energy Agency did not do its work properly so that the world could breathe easily.

“Iran may have the nuclear bomb by now without the international community taking any action against it.

“The assassination of a scientist will not change the equation, even the strikes on Iranian facilities would not affect the real Iranian infrastructure.

“Iran wasn’t confronted the way that would make the world comfortable, nor the way that a terrorist rogue state should have been treated as it distributed terrorism through its militias, ballistic missiles, and drones in the region,” he added.