Turkey's foreign minister stressed on Sunday that a recent maritime deal between Turkey and the Libyan UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) would help protect both countries' rights against attempts to "eliminate" them from the Eastern Mediterranean.
Speaking at the Turkish parliament during negotiations on the country's 2020 central government budget, Mevlut Cavusoglu said: "Many countries tried to eliminate Turkey, just as they did for Cyprus [Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus]."
Referring to energy agreements signed by Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration as well as with other countries including Egypt and Israel, Cavusoglu said the Turkey-Libya deal was an "important move against those who would seek to corner" Turkey.
"Of course, the European Union would stand with the Greek [Cypriot] side as well as Greece in the name of solidarity, but here, the EU isn't in the right," he said, adding that the bloc does not have authority to make decisions on the issue.
"The International Court of Justice can rule [on the issue]. The EU only can express political opinion, but the EU's political views are absolutely not valid when it comes to our national sovereignty rights," he added.
Signed on Nov. 27 and passed in Turkey's parliament on Dec. 5., the Memorandum of Understanding between Ankara and Tripoli went into effect on Dec. 8.
It determined their marine jurisdictions, rejecting unilateral and illegal activities by other regional actors and international firms and aiming to protect the rights of both countries.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Mediterranean region is estimated to hold millions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic meters of natural gas worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
Turkey urged regional countries to take an equality-based approach, but its calls have largely fallen on deaf ears. Turkey continues its drilling operations in the region under the protection of the country's navy.
- Return of Syrian Refugees
Cavusoglu underlined that Ankara hoped to repatriate "all" Syrian refugees to their home country.
"We've included the international community in the return [of refugees]," he said, adding that Turkey "most important partner" in this process was the UNHCR.
"Along with Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan, we are preparing to hold an international conference [on the issue]," said Cavusoglu, noting that he would meet with the the other three countries' top diplomats on Tuesday in Geneva to discuss how to tackle repatriation together with the international community.
Turkey currently hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world.
Reporting by Alp Ozden
Writing by Havva Kara Aydin