A memorandum of understanding for offshore hydrocarbon exploration signed between the Tripoli government and Turkey openly challenges EU territory, causing more headaches in Brussels amid an ongoing war in Ukraine.
“Ankara’s latest deal shows that Turkey is following a model,” a European source told EURACTIV ahead of an EU summit this week that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to attend.
The preliminary agreement on energy exploration was signed between Libya’s national unity government and Turkey and is seen as a follow-up to a broader memorandum of understanding between the two countries in 2019.
The agreement calls into question Greek territorial waters south of the island of Crete and has provoked strong reactions.
The EU, Washington and Athens have all condemned the deal, saying it destabilizes the region, undermines the sovereign rights of third states, violates the law of the sea and cannot produce any legal consequences for third states. .
Since the Arab Spring, Libya has faced a fragile political landscape as there are two rival governments: the Tripoli-based National Unity Government which signed the deal with Ankara and the Sirte-based National Stability Government. .
The latter also criticized the agreement, saying that any agreement reached by an outgoing government is not binding on the Libyan state.
“We’ll gouge your eyes out”
Moreover, Ankara is intensifying its rhetoric every day, openly questioning the sovereignty of the Greek islands.
In particular, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s far-right government partner, Devlet Bahçeli, recently declared that the sovereignty of the Dodecanese and North Aegean islands is Turkish and not Greek.
“We will tear out the eyes of anyone who tries to cover up our rights and our justice,” Bahçeli said.
An EU source told EURACTIV that Brussels is closely following the escalation in the Mediterranean and in no way wants to face another front of instability after Russia’s invasion of eastern Europe. .
“All of Turkey’s moves, both in rhetoric and in practice, show that Erdoğan is following a pattern through the repetition of certain moves,” the EU source said.
The source pointed out that in 2019 the Turks signed the Turkish-Libyan memorandum with something in mind as they come in 2022 to strengthen it in the same direction.
“The goal is to challenge the current status quo,” the source added.
In the past, EU member states were divided on the issue of Turkey due to their different individual interests. For example, for the period 2015-2019, 43% of arms imports to Turkey came from Italy and Spain.
“Before Russia invaded Ukraine, it was true that the further away you got from a crisis, the less you cared about it. After Russia’s aggression, however, things have changed as we see where questioning the sovereignty of European territory has taken us,” the EU source said.
The same source also stressed that it should not be ignored that Turkey will hold elections in 2023 and that Erdoğan is trying to re-attract the “patriotic” electorate considering that the Turkish economy is constantly deteriorating and that easy solutions cannot be found.
Since last May, Erdoğan has cut all lines of communication with the Greek government, saying Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis “no longer exists” for him.
The two leaders will take part in the Prague summit, but a bilateral meeting seems unlikely. Athens, however, said that if Ankara requests it, a meeting could take place.
The current rising tensions are taking place against the backdrop of the ongoing Turkish occupation of the northern third of Cyprus, itself an EU member state. The issue has been stalled for years, leaving the country divided by a heavily guarded border.
This week, the UN special representative for Cyprus, Colin William Steward, said he saw no end in sight.
“I am extremely concerned that the option of a mutually agreed resolution to the problem – in other words, a formula for the reunification of the island acceptable to both parties – is fading and will not be available until a long time,” he added. .
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola also spoke on these issues at the Cyprus forum.
“Europe cannot be truly united as long as Cyprus remains divided,” she said, adding that “the only way forward is to have a single, sovereign European state, a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation, in accordance to the United Nations Security Charter”. Council resolutions.
Meanwhile, Erdogan simply repeated his call for the international community to recognize the so-called “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”.
The West also views with great skepticism Turley’s flirtation with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is controlled by Russia and China and is seen as a rival to NATO.
“It is no coincidence that Washington lifted its arms embargo on Cyprus right after Turkey’s participation in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit,” a Cypriot diplomatic source told EURACTIV Greece.
(Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com)