After a year spent dealing with the repeated incursions of Turkey in the Mediterranean, the Defense Minister of Egypt stated on Wednesday that his country was seeking to strengthen its military collaboration with both Greece and Cyprus.
At a meeting in Nicosia, Cyprus, Greek DM Nikos Panagiotopoulos, Cypriot Defense Minister Charalambos Petrides, and their Egyptian counterpart, General Mohamed Zaki, pledged to step up their military collaboration and discussed other issues that the three Mediterranean neighbors have in common.
The high-level talks on the island of Cyprus were centered around the expansion of military relations between Greece, Egypt and Cyprus into the future.
Lt. Gen. Mohammed Zaki is not only the commander in chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces but is also the country’s Minister of Defense and military production.
Zaki left the Egyptian capital on Tuesday, heading up the high-level military delegation as part of its Cyprus talks, which will last for several days, according to a statement issued by the Egyptian army.
Egypt / Greece Military Collaboration Essential Part of Talks
Tripartite talks will be ongoing between the defense ministers of Egypt, Cyprus and Greece, who will discuss the strengthening of military relations and other issues that are on the radar of the three Mediterranean powers.
Egyptian and Greek forces conducted joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean on Jan. 28 of this year.
An Egyptian Army spokesman told the press that these exercises were carried out within the framework of cooperation between the Egyptian and Greek armed forces. Moreover, he added, they are part of the efforts to mutually benefit from bilateral capabilities, achieve common interests and maintain maritime security and stability in the region.
Last November, various units from the Egyptian and Greek armed forces carried out maritime training in the Aegean Sea during the return of the Egyptian naval units that had participated in the “Friendship Bridge-3” training with Russia.
The Egyptian army carried out the maneuvers after going through the Bosphorus Strait, which is controlled by Turkey.
Erdogan “Saddened” to See Egyptian/Greek Collaboration
On May 7, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had stated to the press that it “saddens him” to see Egypt in solidarity with Greece.
“You know our attitude towards the Egyptian people is very, very positive, that is, there is a historical relationship between the Egyptian people and the Turkish nation,” he told reporters after attending Friday prayers at an Istanbul mosque.
“That is why we are in an effort to regain our historical union with the Egyptian people, not as hostile brothers, but as friends,” he continued.
“As I said before, it saddens us to see the Egyptian people forced to side with the Greek people,” Erdogan said, adding “It makes us sad to see that Egyptians are in solidarity with Greeks.”
Erdogan said Turkey wanted to reinforce efforts to restore the “historic” friendship with Egypt, after the two regional rivals held their first direct talks in eight years.
Greece Strengthens Military Ties with Egypt
Last month, Greece and Egypt signed a program for bilateral military cooperation in 2021 following a meeting between delegations from the Hellenic National Defense General Staff and its Egyptian counterpart.
According to an announcement, the agreement covers a broad range of actions that will take place in both Greece and Egypt, focusing mainly on joint exercises and training activities involving all three branches of the armed forces.
Last year, Turkey reacted strongly to the maritime zone agreement signed between Greece and Egypt, saying it violates the continental shelf of Turkey and Libya, and thereby is “null and void.”
The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) designated in the agreement falls in the area of Turkey’s continental shelf and violates both Turkish and Libyan maritime rights. It also says that Greece and Egypt do not share a sea border.
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— N Panagiotopoulos (@npanagioto) May 19, 2021