EU leaders set to reject Turkey-Libya maritime border deal

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union leaders are set to reject a maritime border agreement between Turkey and Libya as invalid and insist that the pact interferes with the rights of other Mediterranean Sea countries, according to a draft summit statement.

View all (2)

The border deal, endorsed by the Turkish parliament last week, has fueled regional tensions with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt over oil and gas drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

The three countries, which lie between Turkey and Libya, have blasted the maritime border accord as being contrary to international law. Greece has expelled the Libyan ambassador over it.

In the statement, the leaders say the Turkey-Libya agreement “infringes upon the sovereign rights of third states, does not comply with the Law of the Sea and cannot produce any legal consequences for third states.”

The text, seen Thursday by The Associated Press and drawn up for a two-day EU summit underway in Brussels, was a draft so its exact wording could change.

The draft document continues that the EU “unequivocally reaffirms its solidarity with Greece and Cyprus regarding these actions by Turkey.” Turkey has already angered the EU by drilling for gas in waters off the divided island nation of Cyprus.

Ankara upped the ante in that dispute on Wednesday by confirming that it would use its military forces if necessary to halt any exploratory gas drilling in waters off Cyprus that it claims as its own.

Neighbors Greece and Turkey are divided by a series of decades-old issues, including territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea. The NATO allies have come to the brink of war three times since the 1970s, including once over drilling rights in the Aegean.

Greece insists the deal with Libya — which has no fully functioning government able to rule across all of its territory — is unenforceable and has stressed that it will protect its sovereign rights. Like its EU partners, Greece recognizes the United Nations-endorsed Libyan government based in Tripoli in the west of the country.

Arriving for the summit in Brussels, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he would seek from his European counterparts, “and I am sure I will receive, their active support in the face of Turkish provocation.”

Mitsotakis said the deal between Libya and Turkey "grossly violates the sovereign rights of (our) country and has no legal effect. Europe is raising diplomatic walls against Turkish provocations, and in all this process our country is not alone. It has very powerful allies.”

Libyan parliament speaker Aguila Saleh visited Athens Thursday and met with the Greek parliament speaker and with the country's foreign minister, Nikos Dendias. Libya's parliament is affiliated with the government based in the country's east and has already rejected the maritime deal as invalid.

Speaking after the meeting, Dendias thanked Saleh and welcomed the Libyan parliament's position “according to which the memoranda which have been signed ... are void and without content, are unenforceable and create instability in the region.”

“They threaten peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Dendias said, adding that Greece was prepared to help in efforts to restore peace in Libya.

___

Becatoros reported from Athens.