Athens says Turkey ‘blackmailed’ Libya to sign MoU by sending weapons

Athens says it has at its disposal evidence on arms shipments to the port of Libya and is aware of both the time of delivery and the ship with which the deliveries were made. [Shutterstock]

Turkey has blackmailed Libya into signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) demarcating maritime zones in the region by sending weapons to the country, Greek media quote a high-ranking diplomat as saying.

The Greek diplomat also said Athens is in possession of evidence on arms shipments to the port of Libya and is aware of both the time of delivery and the ship that made the deliveries.

Turkey recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Libya to demarcate maritime zones in the region, in a move that triggered strong reactions in Athens, Nicosia and Cairo.

The Turkish-Libyan deal ignores the island of Crete and Greece says Turkey wants to set a legal precedent with an “illegal” MoU under international law.

Greece seeks EU’s diplomatic shield against Turkey at Council

Athens will ask its EU partners to mount pressure on Turkey at the EU Council on 12-13 December, in an effort to be granted a diplomatic shield from Ankara’s growing aggressiveness in the region.

Regarding Ankara’s request to register the MoU with the UN, the same source said the agreement is not valid and therefore, should not be posted to the UN.

“What the Turks do lacks seriousness. I think their overall analysis is wrong. What is Turkey’s acquis, besides confirming that it is a troublemaker?” the diplomat added.

Libya is officially governed by the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, led by Faiez el-Serraj, but the Tobruk-based Libyan National Army, led by General Khalifa Haftar, effectively runs the eastern part of the country. The latter launched a military offensive in April to occupy the Libyan capital which is still ongoing.

Russia and Turkey have had friendly relations in the last few years, but now risk conducting a war by proxy against each other in Libya.

In the meantime, Libyan parliament speaker Aguila Saleh Issa sent an official letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres saying that the Turkey-Libya MoU is invalid and the Libyan House of Representatives does not recognise it.

Erdoğan said on Tuesday he would send troops to Libya to support el-Serraj, who signed the MoU with Turkey, if he requests them.

The EU Council is expected to send a strict message to Ankara today. According to leaked draft conclusions, the MoU has no legal bearing on third parties.

“The Turkey-Libya Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the delimitation of maritime jurisdictions in the Mediterranean Sea 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 draft conclusions read.

EU Commission chief vows tough stance on Turkey amid escalating row with Greece

Ursula Von Der Leynen, the new President of the European Commission, said that the EU executive fully backs Greece in its dangerously escalating row with Turkey over maritime zones.

Turkey is increasingly seen as a troublemaker in NATO, but it also has friends in the organisation. Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov, who had a long meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday, said it was important to re-establish dialogue with Turkey on the basis of diplomacy.

A Bulgarian journalist asked Stoltenberg if Turkey was still a reliable partner and if Bulgaria could replace Turkey in the southern flank of the alliance. The NATO boss said the alliance has 29 reliable partners, and soon 30, with the accession of North Macedonia.

Borissov said Bulgaria has never tried to replace Turkey because among other issues the latter controls the Bosporus.

The Bulgarian prime minister, who has traditionally acted as an advocate of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the EU, argued that with its geographic location between Russia and Turkey, Bulgaria was too small, and this is why it promoted peace.

He said Bulgaria has “zero illegal migration” thanks to Turkey’s strict implementation of its agreement with the EU from March 2016.

Borissov argued that this was why Bulgaria opposed the adoption of military sanctions against Turkey, and said such sanctions would be wrong because they would only push Ankara to buy Russian weapons.

A US Senate committee backed legislation on Wednesday to impose sanctions on Turkey after its offensive in Syria and purchase of a Russian S-400 missile system.

US Senate committee approves Turkey sanctions bill

A US Senate committee backed legislation on Wednesday (11 December) to impose sanctions on Turkey after its offensive in Syria and purchase of a Russian S-400 missile system, seeking to push President Trump to take a harder line against Ankara.

“I’m too small to give advice to the US Congress. But our Bulgaria is located in a very vulnerable area. We have suffered from that for centuries. That’s why we put our efforts in diplomacy, and the only collective body that can help us is NATO. And notwithstanding the different position of some of my colleagues about NATO, as long as NATO is around, I trust Bulgaria’s sovereignty is preserved.”

Former Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called on EU leaders to impose immediate sanctions on Turkey.

“Clear statements and sanctions now on Turkey in order to avoid actions beyond diplomacy tomorrow,” Tsipras said.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevc]

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