Athens.- (GreekNewsOnline, ANA, Reuters)
East Med will proceed regardless of what President Erdogan says, Energy and Environment Minister Kostis Hatzidakis stated in an interview with SKAI TV, on Saturday, noting that “we are determined to proceed according to the international law”.
The statement came a day after Italian media reported that Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Italy will sign and interstate agreement for the promotion of East Med natural gas pipeline. Sources of the Energy and Environment Ministry s did not confirm or reject information.
Later on Saturday it was announced that Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu discussed recent security developments in the eastern Mediterranean in a phone call Saturday.
Ministry of Energy sources said that the countries are engaged over the implementation of the project and referred to Energy and Environment Minister Kostis Hatzidakis’ meeting with his Israeli counterpart Yuval Steinitz in Madrid, on the sidelines of UN Meeting on the climate, during which both sides reiterated their engagement both for the support of East Med as well as for the electric interconnection from Crete to Israel via Cyprus.
At the same meeting, Hatzidakis had expressed “the Greek Republic’s thanks for the Israeli support to Greece in relation with the recently signed, legally non-existent, memorandum between Turkey and the government of Tripoli.
Ministry sources also said to Athens-Macedonian News Agency that Italy is now also supporting the promotion of the project.
Greece is not going to accept attempts to appropriate or violate its sovereignty and sovereign rights, which the memoranda signed by Turkey and Libya are attempting, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said on Friday, at a day-long meeting for foreign ambassadors held on Friday at the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
He referred to the multi-level efforts Greece is undertaking over continuing Turkish aggression, including contacts with the UN and EU, but also affirmed that the government “seeks to keep open the channels of communication with Turkey.”
Dendias recently concluded a tour of three Middle Eastern states for talks on the Turkey-Libya MoUs – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan – and he revealed he is soon visiting Morocco.
He also spoke of very close ties with Cyprus, and said that in the western Balkans Greece firmly supports efforts to set a date for the starts of EU accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia.
Among other issues, he told the ambassadors that the ministry needs to be entirely reorganized and to link foreign policy with extroversion and foreign diplomacy.
Addressing the diplomatic corps, he praised their patriotism and continuous efforts, and invited them to continue to share their substantiated and differing points of view.
OKs DEAL WITH LIBYA
Turkey’s parliament approved a security and military deal with Libya’s UN-supported government Saturday on the heels of a controversial maritime agreement earlier this month that has drawn international ire.
The deal allows Turkey to provide military training and equipment at the request of the Libyan government that controls the capital, Tripoli, and some of the country’s west.
Forces loyal to a rival government based in Libya’s east opened a fierce new assault on the capital last week and on Friday, they gave the militias defending Tripoli a three-day deadline to pull out.
The self-styled Libyan National Army, led by commander Khalifa Hifter, has been trying to capture the capital since April. The battle lines have barely changed in recent months.
The UN has criticized foreign interference in Libya amid the recent escalation in violence, and urged Libyans to return to political dialogue.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed the two agreements with Tripoli in November. He said Turkey could deploy troops to Libya upon request.
Turkish lawmakers now have given the green light to send military advisors , experts and personnel to the conflict, if asked. Ankara could also send weapons and military vehicles, conduct military training, joint exercises and share intelligence.
The separate maritime boundary agreement, signed into law earlier this month, could give Turkey access to a contested economic zone across the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The deal has added tension to Turkey’s ongoing dispute with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt over oil and gas drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
Speaking before the vote, parliamentarians from the ruling party argued the deal would aid the “legitimate government” in Tripoli, ensuring Libya’s stability and Turkey’s interests in the eastern Mediterranean.
Opposition Republican People’s Party legislator Unal Cevikoz said the agreement amounted to meddling in Libya’s internal affairs, violating a UN arms embargo and further destabilizing the country by “adding fuel to fire in Libya.” He said the deal was against Turkey’s interests and created the possibility of putting Turkish troops at risk.
“Do you want to protect the interests of our country? Then don’t be party to the war in Libya. Don’t send weapons and fighters to Libya,” Cevikoz said.
Besides Turkey, the Tripoli-based government is by backed Italy and Qatar.
The eastern government is supported by France Russia, Jordan, the UAE and other key Arab countries.
The United States is “very concerned” about the intensification of the conflict in Libya, with a rising number of reported Russian mercenaries supporting Khalifa Haftar’s forces on the ground turning the conflict into a bloodier one, a senior State Department official quoted by “Reuters”said on Saturday.
The United States continues to recognize the Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez al-Serraj, the official said, but added that Washington is not taking sides in the conflict and is talking to all stakeholders who could be influential in trying to forge an agreement.
“We are very concerned about the military intensification,” the official told Reuters. “We see the Russians using hybrid warfare, using drones and aircraft…This isn’t good.”
“With the increased numbers of reported Wagner forces and mercenaries on the ground, we think it’s changing the landscape of the conflict and intensifying it,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, referring to a shadowy group of mercenaries known as Wagner.
The U.S. official said the involvement of Russian mercenaries so far has not tipped the conflict in favor of Haftar. “It’s creating a bloodier conflict…more civilian
damage, damage to infrastructure like the airports,.hospitals have been targeted. But at the same time we don’t see that Haftar is gaining ground.”
In a first reaction from the United States on the agreements between Turkey and Libya, the U.S. official said the maritime MOU was “unhelpful” and “provocative.”
“Because it’s drawing into the Libyan conflict interests that up until now had not been involved in the situation in Libya,’ the official said. “With maritime boundaries, you’re drawing in Greece and Cyprus…from the United States’ perspective, this is a concern; it’s not the time to be provoking more instability in the Mediterranean,” the official said.