Turkey could sign an agreement on maritime jurisdictions with Egypt after taking part in negotiations, the nation's foreign minister said on Wednesday.
"Depending on the course of our ties, as two countries with the longest land and sea borders in the Eastern Mediterranean, we could also sign an agreement with Egypt by negotiating maritime jurisdictions," Mevlut Cavusoglu told a joint news conference with his Georgian counterpart Davit Zalkaliani in Ankara, the Turkish capital.
When Egypt last year signed an agreement with Greece on the boundaries in Eastern Mediterranean, it respected the southern borders of Turkey’s continental shelf, Cavusoglu said.
"Egypt continues carrying out its activities like seismic exploration and licensing within its continental shelf. In doing so, it continues to respect our continental shelf. We welcome this positively," he stressed.
Egypt last August signed an agreement with Greece delimiting their borders in the Eastern Mediterranean, but some details of the deal only recently emerged, including Egypt respecting Turkey’s maritime territory.
Human rights action plan, ties with EU
Turning to Turkey’s Human Rights Action Plan announced on Tuesday, Cavusoglu said the plan’s primary aim is to expand the rights and freedoms of its citizens, as well as address some deficiencies in practice.
The plan will also bolster the freedom and impartiality of the Turkish judiciary and the rule of law, he said.
"It will also boost our relations with EU institutions while expanding the area of fundamental rights and freedoms."
"When we look at the action plan, we see that the way for visa liberalization is paved in a way that fulfills the remaining criteria as well," he said, referring to Turkey’s efforts to get visa liberalization with the EU, as promised under a 2016 deal.
"We have only four or five criteria left [for visa liberalization] but even in those criteria, we have made significant progress. If the EU had half the flexibility that it showed towards Georgia or Ukraine, we could have visa liberalization by now," he said.
Towards Turkey’s full EU membership, there are chapters that should have been opened for negotiations, plus chapters that were opened but not yet finalized, but the plan should fulfill the criteria of those chapters as well, he added.
For visa liberalization and the revival of Turkey’s EU membership process, these steps should be sufficient, he said, but Turkey also needs “to see the EU side's sincerity and political will.”
Cavusoglu cited chapters 23 and 24, whose opening criteria have been fulfilled, but whose openings were blocked.
Political considerations by EU member states have slowed down or even halted Turkey’s EU accession process, he complained.
Turkey’s human rights plan addresses EU concerns but is primarily for the Turkish people, by fulfilling the “Ankara criteria,” he said.
"So we will maintain these reforms in the upcoming process and we will also carry out our reforms in the economy, and our president will share the details with the public next week," he added.
"We celebrate the 100th anniversary of our relations with our neighbor and strategic partner Georgia," said Cavusoglu, adding that preparations have begun for the countries’ third High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council meeting this year.
“The two countries' economic relations are good but we need to develop them further. The trade volume didn’t fall despite the pandemic. It’s around $1.8 billion,” he said.
“Our target is $3 billion. To achieve this goal, in the meeting we evaluated the steps we can take after the pandemic. Many of our companies are investing in Georgia.”
“Turkey will continue to support regional mechanisms and regional cooperation that Georgia is involved in,” Cavusoglu added.
Georgia’s Zalkaliani said he and Cavusoglu had a chance to discuss trilateral cooperation between Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Georgia and cooperation in the Caspian, calling it significant for the region in general.
“We also talked about a free trade agreement and reaching such an agreement. Trade relations between the two countries will be improved,” he added.
Praising Turkey’s aid to Georgia during the pandemic, he said the country was “grateful” for Turkey sending medical and other aid.
"I am sure that my visit here today will further improve our strategic cooperation," he said.