EU condemns Turkey-Libya deal despite accordance with int'l law

DAILY SABAH WITH DPA
ISTANBUL
Published 13.12.2019 15:31
Updated 20.12.2019 02:21

EU leaders condemned the Turkey-Libya maritime deal at a meeting in Brussels early Friday, declaring the boundary demarcation agreement to be in breach of international laws, twisting the facts.

The memorandum of understanding (MoU) "infringing upon the sovereign rights of third states, does not comply with the law of the sea and cannot produce any legal consequences for third states," a text agreed by EU leaders states.

The statement expresses "solidarity" with Greece and Cyprus, who worry that Turkey is trying to establish a claim to valuable natural gas reserves that are suspected to lie under the sea bed.

On the same day, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar underlined that the deal was, on the contrary, complying with international law, saying "the deal with Libya is not infringing upon the rights and laws of third countries. It only protects our rights arising out of international law."

The pact between the two countries was signed on Nov. 27 and passed by Turkey's Parliament on Dec. 5. It went into effect on Dec. 7 in Turkey and on Dec. 8 in Libya after the two countries published it in their respective official gazettes. The memorandum, determining both countries' maritime jurisdictions, rejects unilateral and illegal activities by other regional countries and international firms and aims to protect the rights of both countries.

Greece, one of the main regional actors, did not welcome the deal with Libya and regarded it as a violation of its rights, though international law proves otherwise. The country went even as far as to expel its Libyan envoy Mohamed Younis AB Menfi in response. The Greek government also released a series of statements Tuesday claiming that the deal is "invalid" and was negotiated in "bad faith." Demanding "a framework on EU sanctions in Turkey and Libya over their accord," the country said it "has lodged its objections to the United Nations" on the issue.

However, despite Greece's claims and the EU's condemnation, international law favors Turkey on the issue. According to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, while a country is able to stretch its territorial waters only 12 nautical miles out to sea when it comes to the exclusive economic zone where it has the rights to fishing, mining and drilling the area can extend for an additional 200 miles. However, if the maritime distance between the two countries is less than 424 miles, a bilateral deal is needed to determine a mutually agreed-upon dividing line for their respective exclusive economic zones. Greece, on the other hand, claims that the islands also have their own exclusive economic zones and with this claim, it reduces Turkey's zone remarkably while twisting what the international law states.

The reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean carry great importance, especially for Europe – the continent with the least amount of natural gas reserves in the world – which is desperate to eliminate its dependence on Russia on the issue. However, Europe is not alone in its search for alternative natural gas resources as Turkey also has a major dependence on foreign states, particularly Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan, when it comes to energy and seeks substitutes for it. Yet, as a difference from Europe's ambitions, 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. The presence of the Turkish Cypriot government in Northern Cyprus also strengthens Turkey's hand as the country defends the rights of Turkish Cypriots in the region and insists that their consent is needed for any type of drilling activity.

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