Türkİye, Politics

Turkish-Libyan maritime pact a game changer in E.Med

Although many countries tried to isolate Turkey from equation, Libya deal protects Turkey’s rights in region, expert says

Ali Murat Alhas  | 12.12.2019 - Update : 13.12.2019
Turkish-Libyan maritime pact a game changer in E.Med


With a memorandum of understanding inked on Nov. 27, Turkish government and the UN-recognized government of Libya stand firm in protecting their sovereignty, diplomatic and economic rights in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The agreement is going to have a direct impact in the region, where tension has been high in recent years following the discovery of tremendous hydrocarbon reserves worth hundreds of billions of dollars and unilateral actions of some regional countries, violating rights of Turkey and Libya.

The Levant basin holds a reserve of some 1.7 billion barrels of oil and 3.45 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, according to a report issued by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in 2010.

The Greek Cypriot administration unilaterally declared so-called exclusive economic zones (EEZ) and began to give licenses to international energy companies to search energy resources.

Turkey, for its part, has always supported an idea of equal share of the resources in the region in line with the neighborhood spirit and international law, and said it would not turn a blind eye to any attempts of fait-accompli, with Turkish navy forces disrupting illegal activities in the region in line with international laws.

Greece has a regional maritime alliance with the Greek Cypriot administration, Egypt, and Israel.

Huseyin Isiksal, an associate professor at the International Relations Department of Near East University in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), argues that the Turkish government has taken a significant step in defining its continental shelf and EEZ boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Isiksal said Turkey has the longest mainland coastline by the Eastern Mediterranean region and underlined that Turkey’s move was based on the principles stating that the islands lying on the wrong side of the median line between two mainlands cannot create maritime jurisdiction areas beyond territorial waters and coasts' length and direction should be taken into account in delineating maritime jurisdiction areas.

He went on to say that the maritime deal between Ankara and Tripoli was already sent to the UN along with its coordinates, and it would turn into a fully official agreement in the eyes of the international community following procedures.

"Thus, a significant portion of both Turkey and Libya's EEZ boundaries will be determined," he said, adding this was Turkey's second maritime jurisdiction deal in the region as it had signed another deal with the TRNC in 2011.

Maritime delimitation

Despite not having any agreement with Egypt regarding maritime boundaries, according to Isiksal, Turkey has also taken a step towards defining its maritime delimitation with Egypt based on median line principles.

"I evaluate this [Libya-Turkey]memorandum of understanding as an important agreement taken against the attempts seeking to confine Turkey to a specific zone in the Mediterranean," he said.

He argued that the Turkish government's deal with the GNA in Libya formed a shield between Greece, the Greek Cypriot administration and Egypt and would prevent Athens from hammering out maritime jurisdiction deals with the Greek Cypriot administration and Egypt.

Turkey is the sole country extending a helping hand to the UN-recognized government in Libya; whereas Russia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), France and the U.S. take sides with Khalifa Haftar, he said.

“One of the greatest challenges in Libya is the double standards we frequently see in the international relations,” he said, stating that his argument was based on these countries’ intention to support militia forces against the UN-recognized government in Libya.

Since the ouster of late leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: one in eastern Libya supported mainly by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates and another in Tripoli, which enjoys UN and international recognition.

“What’s more interesting is that the legitimacy of Fayez al-Sarraj [chairman of the presidential council of Libya] is questioned by [Egyptian] President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who toppled Egypt’s democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi,” he said.

The academician emphasized that Turkey's maritime move should not be confined to the matter of international law, and it should be backed with political and diplomatic action.

"Turkey's next objective should be negotiating with relevant parties. [Turkish] Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu already announced Turkey is ready to have bilateral or multilateral agreements with regional countries regarding the Eastern Mediterranean, with exception of the Greek Cypriots," he said.

He concluded that if Egypt and Israel come to terms with Turkey in the region, this will be a win-win scenario for all three countries.

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