Tensions mount after Greece’s expulsion of Libyan envoy

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias made the statement amid the Turkey-Libya accord. (File/AFP)
Updated 07 December 2019

Tensions mount after Greece’s expulsion of Libyan envoy

  • There are fears that the entry of a Turkish drillship could trigger an armed conflict between Turkey and Greece in an area Athens claims to be its own exclusive economic zone

ANKARA: The showdown between Turkey and Greece over Ankara’s controversial “sea grab” deal with Libya on Friday looked set to escalate after Athens was slammed for its “outrageous” expulsion of the Libyan envoy.

Tripoli’s ambassador to Greece, Mohamed Younis A.B. Menfi, was ordered to leave the country in the wake of his interim government’s signing of a maritime border agreement last month handing Turkey control over a huge area of the eastern Mediterranean stretching from its southern coast to North Africa.

The Turkish Parliament has since approved the accord which gives Turkey lucrative rights to drill for gas and oil in areas that include the island of Crete’s territorial waters. Ankara condemned the Greek decision to expel Menfi. “Had they asked us, we could have given a copy of the maritime deal to Greece. They didn’t. This is outrageous,” said Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Following Menfi’s dismissal, attention has turned to the Turkish Ambassador to Greece Burak Ozugergin, who last Thursday was summoned to Athens to explain the maritime delimitation deal.

Greece has been pushing to see full details of the agreement, and the whole crisis has been further heightened by Cyprus’ petitioning of the International Court of Justice in a bid to safeguard its offshore mineral rights. Egypt is also furious about the Turkish-Libyan move.

Despite the uproar, Turkey’s Energy Minister Fatih Donmez announced that his country would begin oil and gas drilling once the deal had been ratified by both sides. But Greece has slammed the move as a violation of its sovereign rights.

Ankara already has deep disagreements with Athens and Nicosia over the disputed territorial waters surrounding the divided island of Cyprus. Turkey has deployed drilling ships to Turkish Cypriot waters four times, sparking condemnation from not only Greece and Cyprus, but also the EU which has warned Turkey it may impose punitive measures if it does not renounce its drilling activities in the region.

However, there are fears that the entry of a Turkish drillship, escorted by naval vessels, could trigger an armed conflict between Turkey and Greece in an area Athens claims to be its own exclusive economic zone. Greece has also sent military reinforcements to Crete naval base.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met on the sidelines of the NATO leaders’ summit in London on Wednesday, but without agreeing any solution to the crisis.

Seth J. Frantzman, executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, said the EU remained cautious over punishing Turkey because it feared an influx of migrants and refugees which EU states have been paying Turkey to deal with  since the 2015 refugee crises.

“For many EU governments, trade with Turkey and ending migration is more important than standing up for issues in the Mediterranean,” he told Arab News.

“It appears that Greece and Turkey will now have some discussions about the Libya deal and that Turkey, having appeared to ask for influence over a huge swathe of water, will then appear to ‘give’ Greece something by not demanding the whole of what it wanted. This is the general Turkish strategy, just like in northern Syria with the safe zone.”

According to Frantzman, Turkey understood how to use pressure against European powers.

“It seeks to use trade with the UK and Germany to get what it wants and has sought to even use refugees and migrants as a tool to get European powers to agree to its demands. Surely it will then use this to confront Greek concerns about the Libya deal,” he said.


The famous Egyptian city square that shaped a nation’s history

Updated 1 min 57 sec ago

The famous Egyptian city square that shaped a nation’s history

  • Following the two mass demonstrations, Tahrir Square, which lies at the midpoint of Cairo, has become not only a significant part of Egyptian history but also a popular tourist attraction

CAIRO: As famous city squares go, few can have played a more prominent role in shaping a country’s history than Tahrir Square in Cairo.

Best known for providing the stage for nationwide protests, which led to the ouster of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the public gathering place is one of the capital’s most important sites.

For 18 consecutive days, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators — some reports put the number at millions — descended on the square before Mubarak finally resigned after 30 years in power.

And the anti-Mubarak protests were not the only political demonstrations Tahrir, also known as Martyr Square, has witnessed.

On June 30, 2013, a year after Mohamed Mursi became the Egyptian president, thousands of protesters gathered in the square demanding his resignation.

Following the two mass demonstrations, Tahrir (Liberation) Square, which lies at the midpoint of Cairo, has become not only a significant part of Egyptian history but also a popular tourist attraction.

Directly after the protests, Egyptians and foreigners feared venturing into Tahrir after it gained a reputation for being unsafe, despite a heavy police presence.

Nine years on from its most significant event, the square is now once again bustling with commuters being within walking distance of the Abdel-Moneim Riad bus station and a transport hub.

Tahrir is also home to the Egyptian Museum which houses more than 100,000 artifacts from the country.

The square is overlooked by the downtown branch of The American University in Cairo, one of the most famous international educational institutions in the country and the Arab world. In 2008, the university relocated to New Cairo, in the Fifth Settlement, taking with it a significant amount of traffic.

Renovation work resumed this month in the square, part of which will involve the addition of four rams restored from Karnak Temple’s Hall of Celebration in Luxor. They will be placed around an obelisk being moved from Sun Al-Hajar in the east of Egypt.

With the Egyptian Museum due to relocate to Haram, near the Giza pyramids, the future of the square is not clear. But with its history, offices, schools, coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, and timeworn residential buildings, Tahrir Square is guaranteed never to be short of visitors.