Türkiye on Tuesday lashed out at the European Union and Greece over their objections to an energy exploration deal Ankara has signed with Libya, saying that the bloc and its member states should “not overstep their boundaries and powers.”
Türkiye and Libya on Monday signed several preliminary economic and maritime agreements during a visit to Tripoli by a high-level Turkish delegation that sought to address ways to further bilateral cooperation.
The deals, which Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and his Libyan counterpart Najla Mangoush said aimed at benefiting both countries, included an accord on energy that will allow for oil and gas exploration in Libyan waters in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The hydrocarbons deal comes three years after the two countries signed a maritime border agreement, which demarcated their shared maritime borders in the Eastern Mediterranean to prevent any fait accompli by regional states.
“It does not matter what they think,” said Çavuşoğlu when asked if other countries might object to the new memorandum of understanding.
“Third countries do not have the right to interfere,” he told a news conference that followed the signings.
Greece on Monday denounced the energy deal as “illegal” and said it would oppose any activity in the Eastern Mediterranean. Greece’s Foreign Ministry said Athens had sovereign rights in the area that it intended to defend “with all legal means, in full respect of the international law of the sea.”
Relations between Türkiye and Greece are at their worst in years. Undersea gas and oil exploration rights in the Eastern Mediterranean, maritime boundaries, air space, the ethnically split island of Cyprus, the status of the islands in the Aegean Sea that have a demilitarized status and migrants are key parts of the dispute.
Separately, the EU spokesperson for external affairs, Peter Stano, in a statement on Monday said the hydrocarbons deal “potentially undermines regional stability.”
Statements made by Greece and the EU on the deal have “no importance or value for our country,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.
It said Türkiye was calling on the EU and its member states to “not overstep their boundaries and powers,” and to “respect sovereignty and equality of states in line with the international law and U.N. principles.”
“Objecting to an agreement signed by two sovereign states is not only against the international law but also contradictory to the basic principles of the U.N.,” ministry spokesperson Tanju Bilgic said in a statement.
“The EU’s support for Greece’s maximalist demands and its stance of avoiding sincere dialogue and obstructing international judicial procedures is against both its own acquis and international law,” Bilgic noted.
“The EU is not an international judicial body to comment on or adjudicate on agreements between sovereign third countries.”
Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh on Monday hailed agreements his country signed with Türkiye, which he said, “Serve the higher interests of the Libyan people.”
He also noted that Ankara and Tripoli are aligned to mobilize the international support needed to hold elections in the country.
“Welcome to those who want the friendship of our people and respect the unity of our country. Not those who support war, division and extension,” he wrote on Twitter.
In addition to Çavuşoğlu, the Turkish delegation included Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Dönmez, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, Trade Minister Mehmet Muş, Communications Director Fahrettin Altun and Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın.
It was not immediately clear whether any concrete projects to emerge would include exploration in the “exclusive economic zone,” which the countries agreed on in 2019.
Türkiye has been a prominent backer of Libya’s Tripoli-based government, headed by Dbeibah. Ankara’s support for Tripoli’s previous Government of National Accord (GNA) helped turn the tide of Libya’s civil war.
The deals come at the height of a yearlong battle between rival governments vying for control of Libya’s capital.
In August this year, Tripoli saw deadly clashes between forces backing Dbeibah and those loyal to his rival Fathi Bashagha, who was appointed by the Tobruk-based parliament as prime minister. It left 32 people dead and 159 injured.
In a statement published after the press conference on Monday, Bashagha criticized the agreements and said the signing of such deals was only “the inherent right of an elected authority.”
The oil-rich nation plunged into chaos following the 2011 overthrow and killing of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in a NATO-backed uprising, with a myriad armed groups and foreign powers moving in to fill the power vacuum.
The violence, the worst since reaching a cease-fire in 2020, came amid military buildups by forces affiliated with Dbeibah and Bashagha, as both figures claim power and authority in the North African country.
For lasting stability, Türkiye deems the holding of free, fair, nationwide elections as soon as possible as crucial, in line with the aspirations of the Libyan people.