CAIRO — Egypt and Greece signed two bilateral agreements on Tuesday, including one to improve cooperation in migrant search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean, officials said.
The agreement signed in Cairo was the second meeting of the two countries’ foreign ministers in less than two months, after mutual rival Turkey signed a controversial maritime and gas deal with one of Libya’s two rival governments.
According to the statement of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Egyptian and Greek defense ministers first signed the agreement on the rescue operations. Later, the deputy foreign ministers signed an agricultural agreement that will allow up to 5,000 Egyptian seasonal agricultural workers to stay in Greece for up to nine months, the statement said.
“Our goal is to create a framework that can save precious human lives,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikosz Dendiasz told reporters after the signing.
Tens of thousands of migrants fleeing conflicts and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa try to enter the European Union every year, often risking their lives by crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Greece or Italy.
Egypt and Greece have been seeking to strengthen ties since Turkey signed a preliminary maritime and gas deal with the Tripoli-based Libyan government in October. The agreement includes joint exploration of hydrocarbon reserves in Libyan waters, which Egypt and Greece both accuse Ankara of using to expand its influence in the Mediterranean.
Tensions have risen between Athens and Ankara since 2019, when the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed an agreement with the government in the Libyan capital Tripoli that granted access to the disputed economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean. The agreement ignored the existence of several Greek islands, including Crete.
Libya is divided into two rival governments, located in the west and east of the country.