News Analysis: Egypt, Greece, Cyprus summit possible nucleus for broader regional cooperation

Source: Xinhua| 2018-10-11 23:44:14|Editor: yan
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by Mahmoud Fouly, Emad al-Azrak

CAIRO, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- The sixth summit that gathered the leaders of Egypt, Greece and Cyprus on Wednesday shows that their cooperation mechanism is likely to become a nucleus for boarder regional cooperation, said Egyptian political experts.

The summit was held in the Greek city of Crete and attended by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, his Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

The tripartite summit discussed means of fostering ties among the three countries in the political, economic, trade and tourism areas as well as their coordination on key regional issues.

The three leaders agreed to establish a Cyprus-based executive secretariat for their cooperation mechanism to follow up the implementation of the summit resolutions as well as a Cairo-based forum on east Mediterranean gas.

"There is a tendency shared by Egypt, Greece and Cyprus to create a permanent, open regional entity that is not restricted to the three states," said Saeed al-Lawindi, a researcher at Cairo-based state-run Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS).

"The summit is a nucleus for a regional alliance with general shared interests and particular cooperation in several fields including oil and energy, which rose in the east Mediterranean region after the maritime demarcation agreements between the three states," Lawindi told Xinhua.

The future establishment of a Cairo-based forum on east Mediterranean gas seeks to coordinate the natural gas exploration policies in a way that achieves the common interests of the regional states.

"The principles on which the (tripartite) coalition is based elevate their relations from a framework of cooperation to a framework of comprehensive partnership," the ACPSS researcher added.

The summit comes at a time when the three states are at odds with Turkey, which rejects a maritime border demarcation agreement between Egypt and Cyprus that allows exploration for gas in the area.

Sisi reaffirmed in a previous tripartite summit of the three states that "this tripartite summit is not meant to be against anyone but stretches hands for any country in the region to join."

On the other hand, Anastasiades said in the post-summit press conference on Wednesday that the meeting discussed plans to expand cooperation with other regional states including Lebanon and Jordan that would contribute to achieving peace in the region.

"Holding this summit sends direct messages to regional parties that influence the security of the east Mediterranean region like Turkey, Israel and others," said Tarek Fahmy, political science professor at Cairo University.

He added that the periodicity of the summit indicates the persistence of the three states to turn their tripartite gathering into a broader one for regional cooperation in political and strategic issues.

In the press conference following the summit, the leaders of the three states expressed their positions on issues of common concern, such as the unity of the Cyprus island, the situation in war-torn Libya and Syria and terrorism.

"This shows that the alliance between the three states is no longer limited to economic issues," Fahmy told Xinhua.

The agreement to establish an executive secretariat headquartered in Cyprus is an important development that reflects the expansion of the three states' cooperation mechanism and the stability of their partnership cooperation, according to Fahmy.

He explained that Egypt had "a proactive vision" when it worked on launching this tripartite cooperation and implementing a maritime demarcation deal with Cyprus, which resulted in the appearance of Egypt's giant Zohr gas field and other nearby ones.

"I believe the states that will be invited to join this union are those with shared interests with Egypt, Cyprus and Greece, particularly amid such alarming security conditions in the troubled and unstable region," said Fahmy.