Greece, in its attempt to prevail on Libya to sign a maritime border agreement, is acting in compliance with the interests of the European Union (EU) in the Eastern Mediterranean and not for the benefit of regional countries, according to Bahrooz Jaafar, the head of Mediterranean Institute for Regional Studies.
Jaafar told Anadolu Agency that Greece's interest in Libya should be analyzed within the framework of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, a trade partnership that aims at removing barriers to trade and investment between both the EU and Southern Mediterranean countries, the formation of which arose 26 years ago.
The partnership renamed the Union for the Mediterranean in 2008 was formed based on cooperation between EU member states and 16 non-European countries located in the Mediterranean to promote economic integration and security.
Nevertheless, Jaafar believes that due to the EU’s support of Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration policy, it has orientated towards a union for the benefit of Europe and not the Mediterranean region.
"As we saw through the latest visit of the Greece Prime Minister to Libya, he leaned on Libya to cancel the deal with Turkey to have normal relations with the EU," he said.
Consequently, Jaafar affirms that the EU should answer the question of the extent that it is prepared to follow its duties towards the East Mediterranean’s neighbors in the Middle East and North Africa.
Furthermore, he emphasized, in the tangled equation of the Eastern Mediterranean, the alliance between Israel, Greece and Southern Cyprus has not welcomed Turkey in its quest to transport hydrocarbons to Europe.
To form an alternative alliance, Turkey signed a Maritime Boundary Treaty with the Government of National Accord (GNA) of Libya in November 2019 to establish an exclusive economic zone, Jaafar noted.
The Turkish-Libyan alliance came in response to the EastMed gas pipeline project signed between Greece, Southern Cyprus and Israel in January 2020 to import Mediterranean gas to Europe bypassing Turkey, according to Jaafar.
"In the immediate aftermath of the deal, the Greek government expelled the Libyan ambassador Mohamed al-Menfi, who now leads Libya's Presidential Council," he said.
- Tripoli and Ankara share interests in region
The agreement between Tripoli and Ankara is a sign of the countries’ mutual interests and aspirations in the East Mediterranean and a rejection of Greece’s regional policy.
For Libya, the agreement builds on investments in the country, which reached $120 billion in the construction and contracting sector from Turkey in 2020. It also allows Libya to provide new energy resources to Turkey, which is a major energy consumer, he said.
Nonetheless, Jaafar expects the continuance of major objections from Paris and Washington DC, both of which are major influencers in the Mediterranean, in support of Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration against Turkey.
"My expectation for this new reality in the Eastern Mediterranean is that hydrocarbons in the region will not bring new regional cooperation without Turkey," Jaafar concluded.
-Athens' attempts to persuade Libya fail
The Athens administration, which had severed diplomatic relations with Libya, is now seeking to reset relations with the Tripoli government.
This has been seen through the reopening of the Greek embassy in Libya by the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in a visit to the country on April 6.
During the visit, he insisted that the maritime agreement between Libya and Turkey had no legal force and should be canceled.
"It is geography that determines the framework of our bilateral relations, and not artificial lines that somebody draws on maps," Mitsotakis said.
However, Libya's newly elected Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh stressed the importance of continuing the memorandum between Ankara and Tripoli during his visit to Turkey on April 10, noting "with regard to the agreements signed between the two countries, especially the maritime ones, we confirm the validity of the frameworks on which these agreements were built and that they achieve the interests of both countries at the same time."
Libya fell into chaos and civil war following the 2011 ouster of strongman Muammar Gaddafi.
Turkey has long supported the efforts of the Government of National Unity to bring the country together.
By Busranur Begcecanli and Mucahit Aydemir