Erdogan: Turkey, Libya could conduct exploration in Mediterranean

Infuriated Greece announces it launched a complaint with the United Nations over 'bad faith' Turkey-Libya agreement.

    Greece and Turkey are at odds over a host of issues including natural gas exploration [Mustafa Kamaci/Anadolu]
    Greece and Turkey are at odds over a host of issues including natural gas exploration [Mustafa Kamaci/Anadolu]

    Turkey and Libya could carry out joint exploration operations in the eastern Mediterranean after they signed a deal on maritime boundaries, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

    In a move that sharpened disputes over the area, Libya's internationally recognised government and Turkey clinched the natural gas drilling accord last month in a step Ankara said aimed to defend its rights in the region, a move that infuriated Greece.

    Greece lodged objections to the United Nations over the accord between Libya and Turkey mapping out maritime boundaries as a violation of international law, a Greek government spokesman said on Tuesday.

    "This agreement was compiled in bad faith," government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters.

    Greece expelled the Libyan ambassador in response to the deal last week, angry at the pact that skirts the Greek island of Crete and infringes, in Athens's view, its continental shelf.

    "The reason why Greece has gone berserk is because its hands are tied over the Turkey-Libya deal," said Erdogan in an interview with state broadcaster TRT Haber on Monday.

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    Tensions were already running high between Greece and Turkey because of Turkish gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean off the coast of the divided island of Cyprus.

    The European Union has readied sanctions against Turkey in response.

    Erdogan said the accord would also allow Turkey to carry out drilling on Libya's continental shelf with Tripoli's approval, and the deal was in line with international law.

    "With this new agreement between Turkey and Libya, we can hold joint exploration operations in these exclusive economic zones that we determined. There is no problem," Erdogan said.

    "Other international actors cannot carry out exploration operations in these areas Turkey drew [up] with this accord without getting permission. Greek Cyprus, Egypt, Greece and Israel cannot establish a gas transmission line without first getting permission from Turkey," he added.

    No permission needed

    Greece and Turkey are at odds over a host of issues, ranging from mineral rights in the Aegean Sea to the island of Cyprus, which is divided into the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and the Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state, in the south.

    Turkey is the only country that recognises the TRNC.

    Aside from the maritime accord, Turkey and Libya also signed an expanded security and military cooperation agreement.

    Erdogan said the military accord granted Turkey the right to deploy troops in Libya if the Tripoli government requests it, adding that this would not violate a UN arms embargo on Libya, which is plagued by factional conflict.

    "In the event of such a call coming, it is Turkey's decision what kind of initiative it will take here. We will not seek the permission of anyone on this," he said.

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    SOURCE: News agencies