CAIRO (AP) — Egypt and Greece signed two bilateral deals on Tuesday, including a pact to improve cooperation in migrant search and rescue missions across the Mediterranean Sea, officials said.
The deals, signed in Cairo, marked the second meeting the two countries’ foreign ministers in under two months after shared rival Turkey signed a controversial maritime and gas deal with one of Libya’s two rival administrations.
A statement from the Greek Foreign Ministry said the Egyptian and Greek defense ministers first signed the deal on the rescue missions. Later, the deputy foreign ministers signed an agricultural deal allowing up to 5,000 seasonal farm laborers from Egypt to remain in Greece for up to nine months, the statement said.
“Our goal is to create a framework to help save precious human lives,” Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias told reporters after the signing.
Tens of thousands of migrants fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa try to make their way into the European Union each year, often risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean to reach Greece or Italy.
Egypt and Greece have looked to strengthen ties since Turkey signed a preliminary maritime and gas deal with Libya’s Tripoli-based government in October. The agreement includes joint exploration of hydrocarbon reserves in Libya’s offshore waters, with both Egypt and Greece accusing Ankara of using it to expand its influence in the Mediterranean.
Tensions have increased between Athens and Ankara since 2019, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government signed a deal with the government in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, granting it access to a contested economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean. The deal ignored the existence of several Greek islands, including Crete.
Libya is split between two rival administrations, based in the country’s west and east.