Malta Plans to Steal Libya’s Continental Shelf With Turkish Help Despite 1981 ICJ Ruling – Al Marsad

Malta has been strangely active for months on the Libyan scene through repeated visits by Maltese officials to Tripoli and vice versa through Turkish mediation. Through Turkish mediation, Malta plans to steal Libya’s continental shelf despite Res Judicata ICJ ruling of April 1981.

(Libya, 7  August 2020) – On Thursday the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, accompanied the Maltese Foreign Minister, Evarist Bartolo, on a visit to Tripoli where they met with the President of the Presidential Council, Fayez al-Sarraj, his Foreign Minister Mohamed Siala, and a number of other Libyan officials.

Fayez al-Sarraj’s meeting with the Maltese Foreign Minister escorted by his Turkish counterpart to Tripoli.

Two informed sources, one from the Presidential Court and the other from the parallel unrecognized House of Representatives in Tripoli, told Al-Marsad that Valletta is seeking, through Turkish mediation, to sign a maritime agreement with the Presidential Council similar to that concluded by Turkey.

The second source added that the Speaker of the parallel House of Representatives, one of al-Sarraj’s friend, the recently defected and formerly boycotting MP, is waiting for the Presidential Council, if it agrees and signs an agreement with Malta, to refer it to the House of Representatives to sign and “legitimize” it while Ankara strongly supports this step.


Hulusi Akar’s meeting with Fathi Bashagha and his Maltese counterpart.

On July 20, Turkey, under the auspices of its Defense Minister, Hulusi Akar, hosted a meeting between the GNA’s Minister of Interior Fathi Bashagha and his Maltese counterpart, Byron Camilleri, as part of the same endeavors.

On 6 June, the Turkish Minister of Defense, Hulusi Akar, described as the de facto military ruler of Tripoli, ended his visit to the west of the country and headed to Malta. In Malta he visited the graves of his Ottoman ancestors claimed by Ankara, and its allies from the Muslim Brotherhood, to have colonized Tripoli hundreds of years ago to get rid of the Crusader Maltese “Knights Hospitaller”, and the siege of Malta that followed in 1565 in which the Ottoman governor of Tripoli, Darghouth Pasha, was killed.

Hulusi Akar on a visit to the Ottoman cemetery in Malta.

On July 6, Malta held unfamiliar reception for Sarraj on a surprise visit that was not been announced in advance. The president said in a statement issued on the visit that it touched on areas of cooperation between the two countries, including investment.

Fayez al-Sarraj’s visit to Malta.

As for Turkey, it vigorously seeks to achieve this Maltese interest to gain a blocking “veto” at the European Union at the expense o Libyans to serve its interests in the region. Malta seems to be in complete harmony with this demand. On 8 May, it voted against Operation IRINI before announcing its withdrawal from it the next day. As for Ankara, it continues almost daily to remind the GNA’s camp of its favor.

Operation IRINI undermines the supply of Turkish weapons by sea to Libya within the series of “Turkish ghost ships”. It was striking that Malta had violated the position of Italy and France in this file before it became clear today that it is seeking to take over an economic area on a continental shelf to which it is not entitled the support and mediation of the Turks. Malta resorted to Turkey because it is certain it is the only party that has leverage and control over the decision-making process of al-Sarraj and his entourage.


In 1981, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in a case between Malta and Libya in favor of Tripoli. The dispute related to the same continental shelf, which almost caused a war between Malta and its ally Italy, on the one hand, and Libya on the other.

Before that in 1980, Malta began drilling for oil by contracting with the US Texaco Company, which in turn mandated Saipem 2 Company, a subsidiary of the Italian ENI, to excavate on the continental shelf. This made the late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi threaten to bomb any rig installed in those waters. He even ordered two Libyan warships to move towards the drilling rig.

The warships ordered the rig’s director to stop the excavation operations. Italy moved its warships towards the continental shelf and Malta ordered its air force to be ready.
The skirmishes continued and the Italian rig withdrew under heavy guard at the time of sovereignty toward Malta, which then referred the case to the ICJ thinking it would rule in its favor. However, the opposite happened. In April 1981, the ICJ issued its decision in favor of Libya.

The text of the ICJ’s ruling:

Today, after its legal and militarily failure decades ago, Malta returns through the gate of chaos, humiliation, and Turkish influence in Libya, eyeing an agreement with a weak government that lacks legitimacy. Sarraj seems ready to compromise everything in return for the loyalty of his Turkish rescuers, even if this costs Libyans their geographical gains in their maritime territory—territory that has a wealth of oil and fisheries considered by Valletta to be a treasure and a source of income.

© Al-Marsad English (2020)