November 28, 2019
Turkey and Libya’s internationally recognized government have signed an agreement on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea. There were no immediate details on the maritime accord, however, it looks like a further Turkish step towards a kind of “legitimization” of its usual unilateral claims in the Mediterranean Sea, challenging Greece and Cyprus. Too bad for Ankara’s expansion visions and efforts for illegal “fait accompli”, that there is the island of Crete with its continental shelf between Turkey and Libya.
Prompt was the reaction by Greece with Foreign Minister, Nikos Dendias, to describe the deal as “completely unacceptable” and “beyond all reason.” Stressing that between Turkey and Libya “lies the large geographical volume of the island of Crete,” Dendias said “any effort ignoring the geography of the area verges on the ridiculous.”
The agreement was signed at a meeting in Istanbul on Wednesday between Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Fayez al-Serraj, the head of the Tripoli-based government which Ankara is backing against a rival military force based in eastern Libya.
The office of Turkish presidency communications director Fahrettin Altun said in a statement that the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on the “delimitation of maritime jurisdictions”, which aims to protect the two countries’ rights under international law.
The agreement was signed just two weeks after Turkey submitted a letter to the United Nations in which it presents Ankara’s idea of a “Blue Motherland” on November 13. The letter envisages the stretching of Ankara’s maritime borders in the East Mediterranean Sea.
The letter claims Ankara has the right to have maritime zones and a continental shelf west of the 28th meridian (located south of Rhodes), ignoring the Dodecanese island chain in the southeast Aegean and Crete.
The claim thus implies that Turkey seeks to delimit its maritime zones with Libya as it ignores the Dodecanese island and Crete that lie in between.
The letter suggests that Ankara sees the area stretching from the 28th to the 32nd meridian to be part of the Turkish continental shelf – including half of Rhodes, Kastellorizo and the island complex of Ro and Strongili. It also calls on Greece, as well as Libya and Egypt, to discuss how to demarcate the area west of Rhodes.
On Wednesday, the Greek Foreign Ministry rejected the Turkish claims submitted to the United Nations as “legally unfounded, incorrect and arbitrary, and an outright violation of Greece’s sovereignty.”
The Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement that this “suggests interference in Greece’s right to conclude demarcation agreements with third countries.”
PS I suppose the next “maritime boundaries” deal turkey will sign will be with …Morocco.