Libya agreement bolsters Turkey's role in the Mediterranean

Published 02.12.2019 15:56

A high-ranking player on the world stage and an active participant in various international projects and institutions, Turkey is now using its standing to demonstrate that energy should not be a source of conflict. Rather it should be a cause for peace and cooperation stated Vice President Fuat Oktay over the weekend, thanks to the massive Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) pipeline project and the deal on a key agreement with Libya.

"The agreement we have signed off with Libya's Government of National Accord has paved the way for Turkey with a border from Turkey to Libya. We will see its results of all this together," Oktay said on Sunday.

Turkey has signed mutually beneficial deals with Libya over the Eastern Mediterranean last week in order to secure both countries' rights in the region. The two deals were signed following a meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the head of the Presidential Council of Libya's U.N.-backed Government of National Accord, Fayez Al Sarraj, in Istanbul. The first memorandum of agreement outlined security and military cooperation, while the second regarded the delineation of maritime jurisdiction.

Responding to Greece and Egypt's statements regarding an agreement on the delineation of maritime jurisdiction, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy stated on Sunday that "the agreement is in accordance with court decisions that form the basis of international jurisprudence and international law -- including relevant articles from the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Through this agreement with Libya, the two countries have clearly manifested their intention to prevent any fait accomplis."

Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced on Sunday that Greece would seek support from NATO at an alliance summit in London this week regarding the deal signed between Turkey and Libya.

"An alliance cannot remain indifferent when one of its members openly violates international law and aims [to harm] another member," Mitsotakis stated.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias on Sunday came together with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Choukry in Cairo to discuss the issue. Greece summoned the Turkish and Libyan ambassadors to Athens last week in order to gather more information on the deal.

Recalling that Turkey had repeatedly called on all relevant parties to come up with a consensus-based plan based on equity and has been willing to develop a compromise, Aksoy added, "However, instead of engaging in negotiations in response to Turkey's international law and equity-based approach, the other parties would rather take unilateral steps and try to shift the blame on Turkey. This approach has caused Egypt to lose an area of 40.000 square kilometers."

The agreement also confirmed that Turkey and Libya would now constitute maritime neighbors. The delimitation starts from Turkey's southwestern coast of Fethiye-Marmaris-Kaş and extends to the Derna-Tobruk-Bordia coastline of Libya.

The maritime delimitation agreement also recognizes Turkey's rights in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) extending down to the southeastern isle of Crete, thwarting any illegal attempts to confine the country's EEZ in the Mediterranean into an area of 41.000 square meters.

"While international powers have been trying to pressure Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, Turkey has signed a deal with Libya," Oktay expressed further.

Consequently, the agreement also pushes other regional actors – Israel, Egypt, the Greek Cypriot administration, Greece and European Union states – to negotiate with Turkey for any pipeline project to carry Eastern Mediterranean natural gas to European markets. Turkey has the longest shoreline in the Eastern Mediterranean, making it a natural candidate for seeking reserves in the region in accordance with international law.

Still, until very recently, Ankara expressed willingness to establish channels of dialogue with various neighbors, all failing to respond. Egypt even organized its own East Mediterranean Gas Forum this year, inviting all regional nations except for Turkey.

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