Germany’s decision not to invite Greece to a conference on the Libya crisis next Sunday (19 January) while Turkey will attend the meeting, has left the Greek government smarting from a perceived diplomatic snub.
On Sunday (19 January), German Chancellor Angela Merkel is hosting talks aimed to end the crisis in Libya.
The German leader has invited a number of countries (the US, Russia, China, the UK, France, Italy, the EU and the UN) as well as the two rivals for control of Libya: Faiez el-Serraj, prime minister of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and the Tobruk-based Libyan National Army, led by General Khalifa Haftar.
The invitation was also sent to Turkey, the African Union, the Arab League, the Republic of Congo, Algeria, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
The decision to hold urgent peace talks about Libya was made following the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) demarcating maritime zones in the region between Turkey and the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli.
Athens strongly condemned the deal, as in practice it ignores the existence of Greek islands, such as Crete. Since then, a number of diplomatic initiatives have taken place while the EU has fully backed the Greek claims.
The EU objectives at the Berlin conference are a ceasefire and an arms embargo. Athens on the other hand, believes that the Turkey-Libya MoU should also be explicitly condemned.
However, Greece has not been invited to participate in the discussions on Sunday. Greek leftist main opposition Syriza party blamed personally Greek Premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis for what is described as a “diplomatic failure”.
Dora Bakoyanni, a prominent ruling New Democracy lawmaker and former minister of foreign affairs, said the decision not to invite Greece was a mistake.
“Diplomatically and politically it was not proper,” Bakoyanni said, adding that Berlin should provide an explanation for this move.
In addition, the Libyan National Army has expressed its concern about Greece’s absence.
— M.LNA (@LNA2019M) January 15, 2020
The German reply and the EU role
German Deputy Government Spokesman Ulrike Demmer said yesterday in Berlin that the reasons why Greece has not been invited “cannot be made public”.
“It is always difficult to form a circle of participants and beyond that, I cannot say how made the final decision. We do not want to discuss this publicly,” she said.
Foreign affairs ministry spokesperson Rainer Breul said although the Greek-Turkish maritime spat is an important topic, it’s not the “focus on the conference”.
Speaking at the European Parliament yesterday, Conservative MEP Anna-Michelle Asimakopoulou called on EU diplomacy chief Josep Borrell to insist on the cancelling of the Turkey-Libya MoU and urged the EU to take a “leading role” in Libya’s developments.
“The unanswered Turkish provocations do not only threaten peace but undermine Europe’s credibility and ultimately undermine its own future,” Asimakopoulou said.
However, Borrell said there was no guarantee that the Germany-led summit will be successful. He also said the EU had left Russia and Turkey free to step in and dominate the Mediterranean.
“We Europeans, since we don’t want to participate in a military solution, we barricade ourselves in the belief there is no military solution,” he said.
EU spokesman Peter Stano told EURACTIV that the MoU issue is an important element and “we will raise it wherever and whenever we have the chance”.
“The Council Conclusions are clear, and we are mandated by the EU member states to advance them,” he said.
“The Turkey-Libya Memorandum of Understanding 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,” he added.
Sources explained that the Berlin conference is not an EU event and the EU is just invited as a participant by Germany.
“It very much depends on Germany how the ‘choreography’ will take place. No one can say if the issue will be addressed,” one source said.
The same sources added that the MoU is considered a side issue compared to the wider picture and the general objectives of a ceasefire and arms embargo.
“Maybe indirectly the MoU issue can be resolved if the other two objectives are accomplished,” the source added.
EURACTIV.com also contacted the Greek ministry of foreign affairs for a comment, however no response has been provided by the time of this article’s publication. EURACTIV understands that officially the Greek government wants to keep a low profile over the case ahead of the conference.
(Edited by Benjamin Fox)