GNA-Turkey Agreement Could Lead to Military Confrontation in the Mediterranean Basin – Al Marsad

EXCLUSIVE REPORT: The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation at the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), Mohammed Siala, said on Wednesday that Libya and Turkey have signed  an agreement on the maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea. However, the two countries have no common maritime borders that directly connect them in accordance with the International Law of the Sea. The ill-conceived agreement threatens the stability of the entire Mediterranean Basin. 

[Libya, 28 November 2019] – The statement by Mohammed Siala, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA),  is identical with what was written by the Turkish Navy Chief of Staff Admiral Cihat Yayci in his controversial book, Libya is a Neighbour of Turkey. This book, written in Turkish, states that Libya has a maritime border with Turkey in the Mediterranean Sea based on Turkey’s maritime jurisdiction areas which are defined according to a unilateral interpretation of Article No. 74 of the United Nations Law of the Sea that was signed in Jamaica in 1982. With this unilateral interpretation of the Law of the Sea, Turkey aims to control the Eastern Mediterranean gas basin, which according to the author, expects to reach US$3 trillion.

Commenting on Siala’s talk on Libya Al-Ahrar Satellite Channel, Libyan researcher and legal expert Jamal Shalouf told Al Marsad that this agreement is a clear recognition of Turkish Cyprus, stressing that this step will drag Libya to a proxy war with Greece.

Shalouf explained that this agreement is an attempt by Turkey to block any sharing of the gas resources of both Greece and Cyprus with Egypt. He adds that it also threatens the interests of Italy and Malta, which could lead to a legal dispute that may escalate to a full blown military confrontation between these Mediterranean countries. he said that the head of the Tripoli-based GNA, Fayez al-Sarraj, has effectively entangled Libya as a party to the ongoing Mediterranean maritime demarcation problems.

Libyan researcher and legal expert Jamal Shalouf

Shallouf suggested that a competent legal team should be immediately formed to study the possibility of sparing Libya any responsibility regarding the signing of this MOU by Fayez al-Sarraj. He demanded that it declare Sarraj and his government ineligible and prevent them from representing Libya and signing any international agreements. He went on to stress that the GNA had squandered public funds of the Libyan people on such impulsive adventures that will likely bring serious repercussions upon Libya and the region.

The map on the right shows the maritime boundaries of the Eastern Mediterranean countries in accordance with the International Law of the Sea. The map on the left is the illegal maritime map adopted by Turkey given the agreement it just signed with the Tripoli-based GNA.

The Trilateral Summit Between Greece, Cyprus and Egypt

The Tripoli-based GNA also ignored the agreement signed between the leaders of Egypt, Greece and Cyprus on the exploration of gas in the maritime economic zones on 10 October 2018 at the Trilateral Summit in Elounda, Crete, in which the energy issue received critical attention in the talks between the leaders of the three nations. The President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said that the parties of the Trilateral Summit worked through a cooperation mechanism that seeks to achieve the best use of resources, particularly in the field of energy and electricity.

Cyprus, Egypt and Greece Trilateral Summit

The Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic, Alexis Tsipras, said that Crete will soon be the hub of natural gas transmission in the Mediterranean region. The President of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, also talked about means of achieving electrical connection with Egypt via the Mediterranean Sea. The Heads of States of Egypt and Cyprus and the Greek Prime Minister stressed the importance of respecting the sovereign rights and maritime jurisdiction of each state, and its right to explore for natural resources in its maritime zones in accordance with international law, as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Turkey Wants Turkish Cypriots to Broaded their Claim

It is worth mentioning that the Mediterranean waters have witnessed in the past few months an escalation in the political and media skirmishes between Egypt, Turkey and Cyprus. The Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in February this year that his country plans to embark on drilling works to exploit oil and gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean basin.

“One of the key elements of the Turkish energy policy is to increase the use of domestic energy resources. It is our sovereign right to seek and explore these resources so we plan to start drilling in the eastern Mediterranean region in the near future,” stated Cavusoglu.

The Turkish Foreign Minister said, “the Turkish Cypriots, as co-owners of Cyprus, have an absolute right to the natural resources on the island. We find it unacceptable that the Greek Cypriot side insists on acting as the sole owner of the island.” Cavusoglu emphasized that Turkey is determined to support Turkish Cypriots and help them broaden their legitimate rights to the natural resources of the island, and also to protect Turkey’s rights and interests on its continental shelf. According to the Turkish minister, the agreement between Egypt and Cyprus does not have any legal status.

However, Egyptian Foreign Ministry ٍSpokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid warned that the agreement on the demarcation of the maritime border between Egypt and Cyprus, including the 2003 maritime demarcation agreement, cannot be disputed.

While a new crisis looms in the Mediterranean Sea and which raises many questions, local and regional calls have emerged from Arab and African countries to proceed to freeze the membership of the Tripoli-based Presidential Council in both the Arab League and the African Union.

© Al Marsad English (2019)