Turkey and Egypt could negotiate and sign a maritime demarcation deal in the eastern Mediterranean if their ties, which have been strained, allow for such a move, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.
Ties between them have been frosty since Egypt’s army ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Mursi, an ally of President Tayyip Erdogan, in 2013. They have also been at odds over maritime jurisdiction and offshore resources, as well as differences in Libya, where they backed opposing sides in the civil war.
Last month, Egypt announced the start of a bid round for oil and natural gas exploration and exploitation in 24 blocks, including some in the Mediterranean.
Cavusoglu told a news conference that Egypt’s exploration bids had respected Turkey’s continental shelf in the region and Ankara viewed this positively.
“As the two countries with the longest coastlines in the eastern Mediterranean, if our ties and the conditions allow it, we can also negotiate a maritime demarcation deal with Egypt and sign it amongst ourselves,” Cavusoglu said.
Turkey signed a similar agreement with Libya’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) in 2019, prompting an angry response from Greece, which rejected the accord as illegal.
Ankara and Athens have been at odds over the extent of their continental shelves and rights to offshore hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean for decades. A similar deal between Greece and Egypt last year infuriated Turkey.
After trading insults and accusations for years, Turkey and Egypt have recently lowered the temperature of their public comments. However, Turkish officials have said there are still no political talks between the two sides, and that any contacts are solely for intelligence reasons.
Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party supported Mursi’s short-lived Egyptian government. Many Brotherhood members and their supporters have fled to Turkey since its activities were banned in Egypt.
Turkey has also made it clear that it is not necessarily aiming to return to the U.S. F-35 fighter jet programme from which it was removed over its purchase of Russian defence systems, the Turkish defence industry chief said on Wednesday.
He said the primary goal was for Turkey to get compensated for its losses.
Ankara had ordered more than 100 F-35s and has been making parts for it but was removed from the programme in 2019 after it acquired Russian S-400 missile defence systems, which Washington says threaten the jets.
Ankara rejects the U.S. concerns and says its removal from the programme was unjust.
In December, the United States imposed sanctions on its NATO ally Turkey over the S-400s, targeting its defence industry and top sector officials. Ankara hired U.S law firm Arnold & Porter to lobby for readmission into the programme.
Turkey’s Defence Industry Directorate chairman Ismail Demir told broadcaster NTV that there was a “clear loss of rights” and that Ankara’s 6-month contract with Arnold & Porter was aimed at identifying future steps to reverse these losses.
“We are not in a mood like ‘let’s get back (on the project), we must get back’. We say there is an injustice and that this injustice needs to be fixed,” Demir, who was sanctioned by the United States, said.
“The goal of all our efforts is not necessarily to get back on the programme, but rather for the injustices to be seen and for our loss of rights to be compensated,” he added.
Despite Turkey’s removal from the programme and sanctions imposed on its defence industry, the Pentagon has said it will continue
to depend on Turkish contractors for key F-35 parts.
Turkey and the United States have been at odds over a host of issues in recent years, from the S-400s and its implications to differences in Syria policy. Ankara says it hopes for better ties under U.S. President Joe Biden.