Greece and Egypt reject Libyan-Turkish maritime energy deal

Athens and Cairo say the government in Tripoli ‘doesn’t have the authority’ to conclude international agreements

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, left, and his counterpart in the Tripoli government, Najla Mangoush, at a press conference in the Libyan capital on Monday. AFP
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Libya's government in Tripoli has signed a preliminary maritime energy exploration deal with Turkey, prompting Greece and Egypt to vow to oppose activity in disputed areas of the eastern Mediterranean.

Greece said it had sovereign rights in the area that it intends to defend “with all legal means, in full respect of the international law of the sea”.

It cited a 2020 pact between Egypt and Greece, designating their own exclusive economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean, which Greek diplomats have said effectively nullifies the 2019 accord between Turkey and Libya.

“Any mention or action enforcing the said 'memorandum' will be de facto illegitimate and, depending on its weight, there will be a reaction at a bilateral level and in the European Union and Nato,” the Greek foreign ministry said.

Speaking at a ceremony in Tripoli on Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his counterpart in the Tripoli government, Najla Mangoush, said the deal was one of several economic agreements intended to benefit both countries.

“The hydrocarbons deal just signed aims to establish co-operation between Turkish and Libyan companies in exploration, according to the concept of mutual profit on land and at sea,” Turkish news agency Anadolu cited Mr Cavusoglu as saying.

“There may be a misunderstanding regarding the maritime jurisdiction area. This is an agreement signed between two sovereign countries and is valid.”

Oil platforms are visible on the horizon off Libya. AP Photo / Petros Karadjias

Government's legitimacy challenged

Mr Cavusoglu was accompanied in Tripoli by a high-level delegation that included Turkey's energy, defence and trade ministers.

It was not immediately clear whether any concrete projects to emerge would include exploration in the “exclusive economic zone” which Turkey and a previous Tripoli government agreed on in 2019, angering other eastern Mediterranean states, as well as regional and international countries.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias discussed the developments in Libya over the phone.

They stressed that “the outgoing 'government of unity' in Tripoli does not have the authority to conclude any international agreements or memoranda of understanding”, Egypt's foreign ministry said on Monday.

In a post on Twitter, Mr Dendias said both sides challenged the “legitimacy of the Libyan Government of National Unity to sign the said MoU”, and that he would visit Cairo for consultations on Sunday.

Ms Mangoush said the deal was important in light of “the Ukrainian crisis and its repercussions” for energy markets.

The deal was rejected by a rival administration in the war-torn country's east. Libya's eastern-based Parliament, which backs the rival administration, also rejected the deal.

Turkey has been a significant supporter of the Tripoli-based government under Abdulhamid Al Dbeibah, whose legitimacy is rejected by the eastern-based Parliament.

Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh said the agreement was illegal because it was signed by a government that had no mandate.

Election efforts foiled

The political stalemate over control of government has thwarted efforts in Libya to hold national elections and threatens to plunge the country back into conflict.

The exploration deal came at the height of a year-long battle between the two rival governments vying for control of Libya’s capital.

Since March, a government appointed by the eastern-based Parliament has been attempting to take office in Tripoli, but has so far failed.

Dozens of armed groups and mercenaries have been struggling for influence as well, backed by several foreign powers.

Violence has regularly escalated between militias in western Libya. In August, clashes in Tripoli killed more than 30 people — one of the deadliest bouts of fighting in Libya in many months.

Updated: October 04, 2022, 8:27 AM
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