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.”


Lebanon security forces face off against protesters near parliament building in Beirut

Updated 29 min 17 sec ago

Lebanon security forces face off against protesters near parliament building in Beirut

  • 75 protesters have been injured
  • The latest clashes this week come after recent cooling of tensions in Lebanese capital

BEIRUT: Security personnel fired tear gas and water cannons at protesters armed with little more than tree branches and sign posts in Beirut on Saturday in clashes near Lebanon’s parliament.

According to a Red Cross statement issued on Saturday, 75 protesters have been injured during the standoff with security forces.

The latest clashes come after a cooling of tensions in the Lebanese capital, after largely peaceful protests which broke out across the country in October over the state of the economy turned increasingly violent, but people have filled the streets again this week.

They are furious at a ruling elite that has steered the country toward its worst economic crisis in decades.

Police wielding batons and firing tear gas have wounded dozens of people at protests in recent days. Anger at the banks — which have curbed people’s access to their savings — started to boil over, with protesters smashing bank facades and ATMs on Tuesday night.

Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces said on Saturday that police in Beirut were being “violently and directly” confronted at one of the entrances to the parliament. In a tweet, it called on people to leave the area for their own safety.

Witnesses said they saw young men hurling stones and flower pots toward riot police, while protesters tried to push through an entrance to a heavily barricaded district of central Beirut, which includes the parliament.

Hundreds of protesters marched and chanted against in the political class in other parts of the capital. A large banner at one of the rallies read: “If the people go hungry, they will eat their rulers.”

The unrest, which stemmed from anger at corruption and the rising cost of living, forced Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri to resign in October. Feuding politicians have since failed to agree a new cabinet or rescue plan.

The Lebanese pound has lost nearly half its value, while dollar shortages have driven up prices and confidence in the banking system has collapsed.

(With Reuters)