Turkey, Libya maritime deal sent to UN: Erdogan

Turkey’s maritime boundary delimitation agreement with Libya was sent to the United Nations, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Dec. 7.

Erdogan said the deal — already signed by the president — was ratified by the parliament and published on Dec. 7’s Official Gazette, going into effect

On Nov. 27, Turkey and Libya’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) signed the bilateral memorandum of understanding (MoU).

Speaking at the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) consultation meeting of provincial heads in Istanbul, Erdogan said Turkey will use its rights under international law and international maritime law till the end on Eastern Mediterranean.

Erdogan also slammed Greece over its expulsion of the Libyan ambassador, dubbing it as a “scandalous” move. “What did you gain from this?”

Turkey called on the regional countries to work in a collective manner regarding the distribution of hydrocarbon reserves, which have an estimated value of hundreds of billions of dollars and turn the natural sources into an opportunity to boost bilateral ties and neighboring relations.

However, Ankara’s calls have fallen on deaf ears so far and some countries attempted to isolate Turkey from the energy equation. Turkey maintains drilling activities in the Mediterranean region under escort of the country’s navy elements.

‘Turkey is in Syria by the demand of Syrian people’

The president also said that Turkey is not to leave Syria unless foreign countries withdraw from the region. He added that Turkey is in Syria by the demand of the Syrian people.

“We are the ones who cleared the region of 3,000 Daesh terrorists. There is no other country in this world putting up this fight,” he said, using the Arabic acronym of ISIL.

Turkey on Oct. 9 launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate YPG/PKK terrorists from northern Syria east of the Euphrates River in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees, and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.

Under two separate deals with the U.S. and Russia, Turkey paused the operation to allow the withdrawal of YPG/PKK terrorists from the planned Syria safe zone.

Prior to this, Turkey led two successful operations, Olive Branch and Euphrates Shield, in northern Syria to rid the region of terrorists.

The U.S.-backed SDF, a group dominated by the YPG, has been controlling some 28 percent of the Syrian territories, including the most of the 911-kilometer-long Syria-Turkey border.

Turkey deems the YPG the Syrian offshoot of the illegal PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization also by the United States and the EU.

Turkish maritime pact with Libya goes into effect

Turkey’s landmark pact with Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) setting out the countries’ Eastern Mediterranean maritime boundaries went into effect on Dec. 7 with its publication in Turkey’s Official Gazette. Signed on Nov. 27 and passed by Turkey’s parliament on Dec. 5, the memorandum determining both countries’ marine jurisdictions rejects unilateral and illegal activities by other regional countries and international firms and aims to protect the rights of both countries.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Mediterranean region is estimated to boast millions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic meters of natural gas, worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Turkey, for its part, has urged regional countries to take an equality-based approach, but its calls have largely fallen on deaf ears. Turkey continues its drilling and discovery operations in the region under the protection of the country’s navy.

In a statement on Dec. 7, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey does not want any escalation in the region but stands ready to respond to possible hostilities.

Since 2011, when longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed, Libya has seen the emergence of two rival seats of power: one in eastern Libya, to which military commander Khalifa Haftar is affiliated, and the Government of National Accord, which enjoys UN recognition.

Turkey condemns Greece over expulsion of Libyan ambassador

The Turkish foreign minister on Dec. 6 said that Turkey condemns Greece’s decision to expel the Libyan ambassador over a deal Turkey and Libya signed on Nov. 27, saying such a move is “unacceptable.”

“It is unacceptable for an ambassador to be deported. Is it OK to threaten a country? [The deal] is no secret. Is it possible that something passed from our parliament to stay secret? If you call Libya and say, ‘I will deport your ambassador if you do not send that document,’ Libya is a proud country, it will not bow down,” Cavusoglu said.

“We condemn this decision. Libya is an independent and sovereign state. This has shown the true colors of Greece,” he added.

The minister’s remarks came at a press conference in the Italian capital of Rome. Cavusoglu is currently in Rome to attend the fifth Mediterranean Dialogues (MED) conference. Cavusoglu on Dec. 5 also met with his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio and discussed bilateral ties between Libya, Syria and the eastern Mediterranean.

Regarding the details of the agreement, Cavusoglu said that both signatory countries would have provided the details had it been asked in a kind manner.

Cavusoglu also conveyed that Turkey and Libya hammered two agreements, one on security cooperation and the other on restriction of marine jurisdictions.

“The agreement complies with international law,” he said.

The minister also added that Ankara is ready for cooperation in the eastern Mediterranean, with the exception of Greek Cyprus, yet “some countries preferred to criticize Turkey.”

“Turkey is in the region to defend its rights,” he said.

Greece said on Dec. 6 that it was expelling the Libyan ambassador over the Turkish-Libyan deal on maritime zones in the Mediterranean.

Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said the ambassador had been summoned to the ministry in the morning to be informed of the decision and was given 72 hours to leave the country. He also said the decision did not mean Athens was breaking diplomatic ties with Libya.

Greece asked Libya last week for details of the deal. Dendias earlier said if the Libyan ambassador to Greece does not present authorities with the agreement by Dec. 6, he would be declared persona non grata and expelled.

Greek authorities so far have not taken a similar step towards the Turkish ambassador in Athens, Turkish diplomatic sources told Hürriyet Daily News on condition of anonymity. The Greek decision for declaring persona non grata for the Libyan ambassador, but not taking such a step against the Turkish enjoy in Athens lies in the subtext of the remarks by the foreign minister of Greece as the Greek side accuses the Libyan foreign minister of deceiving Athens.

“The text of this agreement carries the signature of the Libyan foreign minister. It is the same person who, in September, had assured the Greek side otherwise,” Dendias said.

Dendias said the Greek government knew that a memorandum of understanding was being drafted between Turkey and Libya. However, when he broached the subject with his Libyan counterpart in September, the latter had acknowledged that, although discussions were under way, such a deal would be problematic and could not be signed.

Turkish diplomatic sources stressed that Ankara has always urged Athens to avoid any moves in the east Mediterranean that would exclude Turkey and the deal with Libya should not be a surprise for Greek authorities.

The memorandum between Turkey and Libya on maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean Sea was ratified by the Turkish Parliament on Dec. 6, the same day it was also approved by Libya’s United Nations-recognized government.

On Nov. 27, the foreign ministers of Libya and Turkey sealed the “Marine Jurisdictions” maritime boundary delimitation deal in Istanbul.

The memorandum establishes 18.6 nautical miles of a continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone boundary line between Turkey and Libya.

Ahead of signing a deal with Libya, Turkey on Nov. 13 sent a letter to the U.N. addressing the secretary-general and reaffirmed the outer limits of its continental shelf in the Eastern Mediterranean.