By Irina Slav
Turkey and Libya could use the services of international companies for their joint oil and gas exploration plans in the Mediterranean, Reuters reports, citing Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan’s statement comes amid attempts by Turkey to restore close relations with Libya. These efforts resulted in a deal that set up a maritime corridor from Turkey’s southern coast to Libya’s northeast shores.
The move was followed by vocal protests from Greece and Cyprus, with Greece expelling the Libyan ambassador and lodging a complaint against Turkey at the United Nations. For Greece, the corridor is a power grab on the part of its neighbor in the resource-rich Eastern Mediterranean.
The European Union is on Greece’s side. Another Reuters report from December said that the union will come out with a statement rejecting the deal on the grounds of it breaking international maritime law.
To make matters more interesting, the Libyan parliament has also rejected the deal, which Erdogan made with the Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord. While the GNA is the Libyan government that the West and the UN recognizes, the Libyan parliament supports an alternative government based in eastern Libya.
The Eastern Mediterranean has drawn the attention of governments in the region after a few significant natural gas discoveries, among them the Zohr field in Egypt, the Leviathan field in Israel, and a few smaller but still sizeable discoveries off the coast of Cyprus. Just recently, the island greenlit a consortium involving Eni and Total to drill for gas in a new part of its exclusive economic zone.
Cyprus sees Turkey’s increased activity in the region as infringement of its territorial rights, but that has not made President Erdogan any less determined to pursue his exploration plans. However, Egypt and Israel have also started worrying about the implications of a Turkey-Libya drilling agreement. Both spoke against the deal, with Egypt calling it illegal and not binding, and Israel warning it could threaten the stability of the region.