Turkey and Libya can carry out joint exploration operations in the eastern Mediterranean a deal was signed on maritime boundaries, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said after the move sharpened disputes over the area.
Libya’s internationally recognised government and Turkey clinched the natural gas drilling accord last month in a step Ankara said aimed to defend its rights in the region, but infuriated Greece.
Tensions were running high between Greece and Turkey because of Turkish gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean off the divided island of Cyprus. The European Union readied sanctions against Turkey in response.
Speaking with state broadcaster TRT Haber, Erdogan said the accord would allow Turkey to carry out drilling on Libya’s continental shelf with Tripoli’s approval and the deal was in line with international law.
The area where Turkey and Libya have drawn maritime borders in the accord is not far south of the Greek island Crete.
“With this new agreement between Turkey and Libya, we can hold joint exploration operations in these exclusive economic zones. There is no problem,” Erdogan said.
“Other international actors cannot carry out exploration operations in the areas Turkey drew up this accord without permission. Greek Cyprus, Egypt, Greece and Israel cannot establish a gas transmission line without permission from Turkey,” he said.
Greece and Turkey are at odds over a number of issues, ranging from mineral rights in the Aegean Sea to Cyprus, divided into a breakaway Turkish republic in the north and the Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state, in the south. Greece does not recognise the north of Cyprus.
Aside from the maritime accord, Turkey and Libya signed an expanded security and military co-operation agreement.
Erdogan said the military accord granted Turkey the right to deploy troops in Libya if the Tripoli government asked and added this would not violate a United Nations arms embargo on Libya, plagued by factional conflict.
“In the event of such a call coming, it is Turkey’s decision what initiative it will take. We will not seek permission from anyone,” he said.