Strategic Importance of Libyan Developments for Turkey and Greece

2021/04/23 | Note, political, top news

Strategic Council Online - The Eastern Mediterranean, border issues as well as the maritime agreement between Turkey and Libya are among the axes that have caused tensions between Greece and Turkey over the past two years. One of the contentious issues between the two neighbors is the internal developments in Libya. The visits of the leaders of both Libyan factions to Turkey and Greece have been met with fringe and controversy, and the crisis in Libya has practically added to the scope of the traditional rivalry between Athens and Ankara. Libya is in a geopolitically sensitive position, and its developments directly affect the security of Africa, the Middle East and Europe. If the Libyan crisis is resolved, the country can increase its oil production in 2 to 3 years and start oil trade with southern Europe. Mahmoud Fazeli – Analyst of international affairs

In August 2020, the Libyan National Accord government signed a 16 billion dollar economic agreement with Turkey to resume completion of Libya’s massive construction projects halted by the war. Earlier, the then head of the Libyan National Accord government signed two important agreements with Ankara on November 27, 2019, during a visit to Turkey. Following this military agreement, the Turkish parliament on January 2, 2020, approved a bill authorizing the deployment of troops to support the Libyan government. The agreement between Turkey and Libya was opposed by other Mediterranean countries. Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and France see the Libyan-Turkish maritime boundary treaty as a threat to the stability and security of the Mediterranean countries.

Greek Foreign Minister Dendias, a supporter of the Libyan Presidential Council, recently visited Benghazi. A visit in the course of which he called for the implementation of the “illegal memorandum between Turkey and Libya” and the avoidance of any initiative that would cloud Libya’s bilateral relations with the European Union. The visit, aimed at strengthening bilateral cooperation in defense of Greece’s legitimate interests and supporting Libya and strengthening political, economic, trade and cultural relations with the country, had three clear political messages:

1- Greece will participate in the reconstruction of Libya.

  1. Greece will strengthen its presence in Libya and support international efforts.
  2. Greece seeks to prevent implementation of the “illegal memorandum without legal basis” of Turkey and the government of National Accord on the maritime boundary treaty.

Athens believes that the agreement is incompatible with international maritime law and has been condemned by the Council of the European Union. Unilateral or bilateral actions that violate international law have no place and are condemned by the international community.

During the visit, the Greek Foreign Minister praised the explicit stance of the Deputy Prime Minister of the Libyan National Unity Government, Hussein al-Qatrani, against the illegal agreement signed between the National Unity Government and Turkey, which was not approved by the Libyan House of Representatives. He also praised Libya’s position in signing a memorandum of understanding by the government of former Prime Minister Faiz al-Siraj. Athens hopes to sign an agreement that has been suspended since 2010 on the boundary of the maritime borders of the two countries.

The Deputy Prime Minister of the Libyan National Unity Government also claims that Libya hopes to strengthen political and economic relations with Greece. ‌Cooperation between the two countries will include countering terrorism, illegal immigration and maritime boundary. The speaker of the Libyan Parliament also said that Greece’s position in support of them will never be forgotten and that the agreement is not going to be approved in the Libyan parliament. The current government is transitional and interim, and its main goal is to hold elections in December.

During his visit to Libya, the Greek Prime Minister also asked the Prime Minister of the Libyan National Unity Government to cancel the Memorandum of Understanding of the maritime boundary signed by the former government of the so-called Libyan National Accord Government with Turkey in 2019. Greece also criticized the Libyan National Accord government for signing the treaty with Turkey by the Tripoli officials in 2019, describing it as baseless, claiming that the agreement overshadowed Libya’s relations with Greece and the European Union. Relations between Greece and Libya have witnessed growing tension since 2019, following the signing of a memorandum of understanding on maritime boundary with Turkey by the Libyan National Accord government. Athens outlawed the move, expelling the Libyan National Unity Government ambassador and supporting Khalifa Haftar.

While the Turkish president speaks of the imminent start of exploration and drilling activities in the region under the Turkey-Libya agreement, Ankara’s agreement with Libya has been condemned by the Council of Europe. According to the Turks, condemnation (of Turkey) by the European Commission has no meaning in this case. The European Union has no jurisdiction over maritime issues. The visit of the Libyan Prime Minister with 14 cabinet ministers could also be a sign of Turkey’s influence in Libya. The purpose of the meeting was to review with Turkish officials the agreements between Libya and Turkey and to further develop cooperation between the two countries.

According to Erdogan, the agreement between Turkey and Libya remains in force. He said that they call on the international community to support Libya in holding timely elections. When the attacks on Tripoli reached dangerous proportions, Turkey rushed to the aid of the Libyan people in response to the internationally recognized National Accord government, and was the only country that responded to that government’s request for help from the international community. While Turkey supported the legitimate government, others continued to support the coup plotter Haftar and equip him with weapons. Turkish support for Libya prevented the fall of Tripoli and guaranteed a ceasefire.

The visit of the Prime Minister of the Provisional Government of the Libyan National Accord to Turkey and signing of five trade and political agreements show that Turkey has opened a special account for the development of relations with Tripoli. According to Erdogan, Turkey is rapidly taking steps to further enhance cooperation between the two countries in the fields of energy, health, finance, local offices, education and culture. Turkey has delivered 150,000 doses of the Corona vaccine to Libya and shares its experience with Libya in the fight against Coronavirus, including in the field of medicine. Erdogan’s opponents believe that it is a wrong policy to deliver vaccines to Libya and allocate a significant portion of the country’s income to meet the needs of the Syrian refugees.

Almost every day, the international media, by quoting an official of the United Nations, the United States, European countries or Egypt, emphasize the need for the withdrawal of Turkish military forces that are present in the country to train the Libyan troops. But Turkey does not intend to leave Libya at any cost. Libya’s importance in the field of energy and reconstruction is undeniable. Normally, Libya, which has a daily production capacity of 1.7 million barrels of oil, is a very important producer of crude oil for Europe; but due to the conflict, this figure has dropped to 92,000 barrels per day.

International assistance to Libya’s energy development and access to resources is crucial. Turkey is the determining force in Libya with its controversial achievements. Although the Libyan National Unity’s military victories were weak under Turkish military power prior to the dispatch of weapons and drones in January by Erdogan, the fate of the UN-backed Tripoli government has since changed. The civil war in Libya is escalating. Foreign powers are arming the official government in Tripoli and its opponents, and there is a threat of a direct military confrontation between the two sides.

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