Turkey and Libya’s gains from the Eastern Mediterranean Agreement

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On the third anniversary of its signing, the agreement on the demarcation of the borders of powers in the Mediterranean between Turkey and Libya stands out as one of the most important agreements that protect the rights and interests of the two countries in the region.

The agreement came in response to the unilateral, extremist steps taken by Greece and southern Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean.

On November 27, 2019, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Fayez al-Sarraj, Chairman of the Presidential Council of the Libyan Government of National Accord at the time, signed two memorandums of understanding regarding security and military cooperation and defining areas of maritime jurisdiction to protect the rights of the two countries emanating from international law.

The Turkish Parliament ratified the memorandum defining the areas of maritime jurisdiction with Libya on December 5, 2019, and it was published two days later in the Official Gazette of the Turkish state.

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On the same day, the Presidential Council of the internationally recognized Libyan government approved the two memorandums of understanding, and after three days the memorandum related to defining the areas of maritime powers entered into force.

In 2020, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, ratified the agreement based on Article 102 of the Charter of the International Organization.

Although the United Nations ratified the agreement, it sparked reactions from the European Union, Egypt, Greece and the South Cypriot administration in particular.

Greece sent a communication to the Libyan ambassador to Athens at the time, Muhammad al-Munfi, to present the content of the agreement to the Greek government, but the exiled did not succumb to pressure from Athens, which prompted the latter to declare him “persona non grata.”

Al-Munfi, who was asked to leave Greece within 72 hours in December 2019, became head of the Libyan Presidential Council, about a year and a half after his return to Libya.

A month after he assumed office, he received the exiled Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, who had previously declared him “persona non grata” in Greece.

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Determining the areas of maritime jurisdiction is a very important issue due to the presence of hydrocarbon resources (oil and natural gas) in the eastern Mediterranean region, in which Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Greece, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the southern Cypriot administration border with Turkey.

Although the Cyprus issue was not resolved, the southern administration concluded maritime border agreements with Egypt in 2003, Lebanon in 2007, and Israel in 2010, ignoring the legitimate rights of the Turkish Cypriots.

Turkey objected to these agreements for many reasons, especially their violation of the rights of the continental shelf.

In addition to these agreements, the parties opposing the Turkish-Libyan agreement sought to eliminate the role of the two countries in the region through the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, which was established by these parties.

To enhance their cooperation in the field of energy, Turkey and Libya signed on October 3 an agreement that gives Ankara the ability to explore hydrocarbon resources in the exclusive economic zone of Libya and the mainland.

The vice president of the Turkish University of Eskişehir Osman Ghazi, Ramadan Ardağ, said that the agreement to demarcate the borders of the Turkish-Libyan maritime powers protects the sovereign rights of both countries.

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He added that the security and military cooperation agreement between the two countries contributed to aborting attempts to overthrow the legitimate (Libyan) government and facilitated the process of providing support and coordination to the Libyan army.

And Ardağ added that the agreement on the demarcation of the borders of maritime powers contributed to protecting the sovereign rights of the two countries in the eastern Mediterranean, an agreement concluded in accordance with international law and registered with the United Nations.

He stressed that the agreement is based on the approach of protecting the sovereignty of the two countries and achieving their common interests, and it played an important role in thwarting attempts to exclude Turkey from developments in the eastern Mediterranean, as well as strengthening strategic cooperation between Turkey and Libya and laying solid foundations for joint cooperation.

Ardağ stressed that the agreement achieved gains for both countries and allowed Turkey to obtain a large maritime jurisdiction area with Libya in the eastern Mediterranean.

He added that it stressed the importance of resolving problems and disputes in the region through diplomatic means and proved the futility of provocative actions against Turkey by Greece and the South Cypriot administration.

Ardagh touched on the agreement on hydrocarbon resources and military cooperation signed between Turkey and Libya last October, stressing that it develops and deepens bilateral strategic cooperation relations.

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He said that the 2019 agreement clearly defined the areas of maritime jurisdiction for Turkey and Libya and formed the basis for “carrying out joint activities in their areas of sovereignty.”

He concluded that countries such as Greece objected to the agreement, but their objections did not receive an international response because the agreements concluded between Libya and Turkey as two sovereign states are in accordance with international law.