Turkey-Libya maritime agreement draws Greek ire

Turkey is among a handful of countries that did not ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. (Reuters)
Updated 30 November 2019

Turkey-Libya maritime agreement draws Greek ire

  • Athens sees the MoU as an attempt to block Greek and Cypriot energy drilling activities in the zone
  • Turkey and Greece have overlapping claims over maritime zones

ANKARA: A memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between Turkey and Libya on Wednesday to demarcate maritime zones in the Eastern Mediterranean has sparked condemnation from Greece.

Athens sees the MoU as an attempt to block Greek and Cypriot energy drilling activities in the zone.

Turkey and Greece, although allies under the NATO umbrella, have long been at loggerheads over Cyprus and especially about the maritime zones they both claim as their own.

Hailing the MoU as a victory, Ankara claims that the move aims to “protect Turkey’s rights deriving from international law,” while Athens considers it a violation of the sovereign rights of third countries and of the good neighborliness principle. On Friday, the Greek Foreign Ministry summoned Turkish Ambassador Burak Ozugergin.

Ahmet Sozen, who chairs the department of international relations at the Eastern Mediterranean University in Nicosia, thinks Turkey is trying to get out of the isolation that it has been facing in the Eastern Mediterranean.

“Israel, Egypt, Greece and the Greek Cypriots have been forging bilateral and trilateral agreements keeping Turkey out of the equation for some time. Now, with the MoU with Libya, Turkey has been retaliating to this strategy,” he told Arab News.

Libya’s neighbor Egypt has been closely cooperating with Greece and Cyprus on energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, including a possible establishment of a regional gas market. Egyptian relations with Turkey have been especially frosty since 2013. Cairo condemned the deal as “illegal.”

The controversial move came just two weeks after the EU agreed on restrictive measures against Turkey in response to its drilling activities near the Cypriot coast in violation of the established maritime economic zone off the divided island.

Mona Sukkarieh, a political risk consultant and cofounder of Middle East Strategic Perspectives, said little regard is given to the presence of a number of Greek islands  — especially Crete, located between the coasts of Turkey and Libya — along the corridor between Libyan and Turkish shores.

“This is not surprising because Turkey’s longstanding position is that islands’ capacity to generate maritime zones should be limited, compared with states with longer coastal fronts,” she told Arab News.

Turkey is among a handful of countries that did not ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. According to Sukkarieh, Ankara opposed the move “specifically because it opposes provisions governing the regime of islands.”

Last year, Wess Mitchell, US assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, sent a message to Ankara over the drilling activities for hydrocarbons underway in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone. He said that “Turkey’s view is a minority of one versus the rest of the world.”

Sukkarieh said: “The deal is significant for Turkey because Ankara was finally able to find a partner in the Eastern Mediterranean that shares its views on the demarcation of maritime areas. On paper, Turkey is no longer alone.”


Fire breaks out at Iranian industrial area

Updated 04 August 2020

Fire breaks out at Iranian industrial area

  • A fire department official told state TV that the cause of the fire was under investigation
  • There have been several other incidents at facilities in the past weeks

DUBAI: A fire broke out at an Iranian industrial area near Tehran on Tuesday, Iran’s state TV reported, the latest in a string of fires and explosions, some of which have hit sensitive sites.
“The fire broke out at the industrial area of the Jajrud district in the Pardis county this morning ... there were no casualties ... firefighters are trying to contain the fire,” it said.
A fire department official told state TV that the cause of the fire was under investigation.
There have been several other incidents at facilities in the past weeks, including a fire at the underground Natanz nuclear facility last month which caused significant damage, but Iranian officials said operations were not affected.
In an explosion at a medical clinic in the north of the capital Tehran in July, 19 people were killed. Officials said it was caused by a gas leak.
On June 26, an explosion occurred east of Tehran near the Parchin military and weapons development base that the authorities said was caused by a leak in a gas storage facility in an area outside the base.