Partners like the US, as well as Russia, Egypt and Turkey are crucial to finding a solution to the Libyan crisis, said Italy’s foreign affairs minister Luigi Di Maio after a meeting with Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in Istanbul.
“It’s important to maintain a relation with all the actors that can have an influence in Libya and then find a solution together,” he added.
In the afternoon, Di Maio told reporters in Brussels that countries are interfering in the Libyan civil war, turning it into a proxy war, but declined to answer whether he was going to address the issue of external interference at the meeting with Çavuşoğlu.
However, the EU High Representative, Josep Borrell, was more matter-of-fact in a press point after the meeting with Di Maio and foreign affairs ministers of France, UK and Germany.
“It is clear to those who want to understand, that when I speak of increased external interference, I am referring to interference from Turkey,” he said.
The foreign affairs ministers of Cyprus, Greece, Italy, France and Egypt will meet in Cairo to discuss ongoing developments in the Eastern Mediterranean and Turkey’s moves.
Diplomacy has heated up in the Mediterranean since the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) demarcating maritime zones in the region between Turkey and Libya. The MoU ignores Greek islands such as Crete and has triggered a strong reaction from the EU, mainly France and Italy, whose energy giants have big stakes in the region.
In Athens, the leftist opposition Syriza party lashed out against the conservative New Democracy government about what described as a “fiasco” meeting of Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis with US President Donald Trump.
“The Greek Prime Minister’s visit to the US, not only did not offer the country something in a difficult time of escalating tensions in the region, but resulted in an unprecedented fiasco,” Syriza said in a statement.
Mitsotakis paid a two-day visit to the US to meet American officials and raise the issue of Turkish aggressiveness in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Greek government’s objective was to get the public support of the US in its ongoing spat with Turkey.
However, Trump refused to hold a joint press conference at the end of the meeting, and also avoided making any public statement against Ankara.
“The problem is not just that the US President spoke on his own disregarding for the Greek Prime Minister, but that he has failed to find a single word to say against Turkey as Ankara takes the most aggressive, provocative and dangerous actions in the last 20 years against Greece and Cyprus,” the leftist party said.
Meanwhile, Cypriot media report that the five countries will try to coordinate against Turkey’s actions, based on international law. In the meantime, on 8 January, the Turkish and Russian presidents will inaugurate the TurkStream pipeline in Istanbul. The pipeline will transport natural gas from Russia to Turkey and from there to southern Europe.
It’s part of Russia’s long-term objective to bypass Ukraine with alternate pipeline projects, such as Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2.
Putin and Erdogan are expected to also discuss the developments in Libya. Moscow opposes Turkey’s interference in the country.
(Gerardo Fortuna, Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com)