Greece dismisses maritime boundaries deal signed by Turkey and Libya

Sherry El Gergawi , Thursday 28 Nov 2019

Turkey and Libya's internationally recognised government signed on Thursday a deal on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean and expanded security and military cooperation

Nikos Dendias
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias answers a journalist's question during a news conference on Tuesday 26 November, 2019 (Photo: AP)

Any discussion on the establishment of an exclusive zone between Turkey and Libya is “completely unacceptable” and “beyond all reason,” Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said on Thursday, in the wake of an agreement signed between the two countries earlier on the same day.

Libya's internationally recognised government and Turkey have signed an agreement on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea that could complicate Ankara's disputes over energy exploration with other countries.

Turkey, which announced the accord and a deal on expanded security and military cooperation on Thursday, gave no details of their memorandum of understanding and did not specify where Turkish and Libyan waters meet.

Greece dismissed the announcement as geographically absurd because it ignored the presence of the Greek island of Crete between the coasts of Turkey and Libya.

“Such an effort shows a complete lack of geographic knowledge, because it obviously ignores something that I think everyone can see; that between these two countries lies the large geographical volume of Crete,” Dendias told journalists at a joint press conference with visiting Dutch counterpart Stef Blok.

“Therefore, I think that any such effort verges on the ridiculous,” he continued, adding that Greece is ready to send an ambassador to Libya when conditions allow it.

EU foreign ministers agreed economic sanctions against Turkey two weeks ago to punish it for drilling near the coast of Cyprus in violation of a maritime economic zone established off the divided island.

The dispute pits Turkey against Greece, Cyprus and other eastern Mediterranean states that have agreed maritime and economic zones, leaving Ankara searching for allies in the region.

The new agreements were signed at a meeting in Istanbul on Wednesday between Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Fayez al-Serraj, the head of the Tripoli-based government which Ankara is backing against the Libyan National Army (LNA) based in eastern Libya.

"This means protecting Turkey's rights deriving from international law," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said of the memorandum of understanding on the "delimitation of maritime jurisdictions."

He said that such accords could be agreed with other countries if differences could be overcome and that Ankara was in favour of "fair sharing" of resources, including off Cyprus.

The internationally recognised government in Tripoli confirmed the new agreements but gave no details.

While Libya's eastern parliament denounced Thursday a maritime and security cooperation deal between the Tripoli-based UN-backed government and Turkey as a ``flagrant breach'' of the country's security and sovereignty.

This parliament is allied with the Libyan National Army (LNA), which launched an offensive under the command of Gen. Khalifa Haftar in April to capture Tripoli from the Government of National Accord led by Fayez Sarraj.

Since 2015, Libya has been divided between two competing governments, in the east based in Benghazi and in the west in Tripoli.

LNA controls most of Libya's oil fields and facilities but oil revenues are controlled by the central bank in Tripoli.

The eastern parliament's Foreign and International Cooperation Committee issued a statement Thursday saying the deal amounts to a ``defense pact'' and grants the Turkish government the right to use Libyan airspace and waters as well as build military bases on Libyan soil.

The agreement ``does not only threaten the Libyan national security but also threatens the Arab national security and peace in the Mediterranean Sea,'' read the statement.

Military cooperation

The Turkish presidency's communications director Fahrettin Altun tweeted on Thursday that Ankara was confident the deal would improve Libyans' security.

"The agreement establishes training and education, structures the legal framework, and strengthens the ties between our militaries," he said.

In June, LNA said they had cut all ties with Turkey and that all Turkish commercial flights or ships trying to access Libya would be treated as hostile. 

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