Athens.- (GreekNewsOnline, ANA-MPA)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday that a controversial memorandum of understanding signed with Libya on boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea has been sent to the United Nations, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Speaking at an AK Party meeting in Istanbul, he also reiterated his warning that Turkey will use “its rights under international law, maritime law till the end” on the Eastern Mediterranean, according to the agency.
On Thursday, the Turkish parliament ratified the document. Ahead of the vote, Turkey’s vice-president Fuat Oktay spoke of a “historic agreement” that would “bring peace” to the Eastern Mediterranean and solidarity between Turkey and Libya.
Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt have all slammed the agreement, with Athens arguing it is legally void and expelling Libya’s ambassador after he failed to hand over the document.
The MoU was signed at a meeting in Istanbul on November 27 between Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Fayez al-Serraj, the head of the Tripoli-based government which Ankara is backing against a rival military force based in eastern Libya.
Greek Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias told Saturday’s Parapolitika newspaper how Greece “will not make any concessions in defending its national sovereignty,” while he added that no one should mistake Greece’s “prudent, responsible approach towards the provocative, illegal behavior of our neighbors,” as “a policy of appeasement.”
“We will defend every last millimeter of Greek national territory, as per our constitution, which we swore to observe,’ said Dendias, while the country’s “armed forces can ensure the repelling of any harm.”
It is Dendias’ estimation that “Turkey would not risk a heated face-off in the Aegean Sea,” yet he added that “any such dangerous eventuality, albeit unintentional, cannot be precluded, bearing in mind that armed fighter jets engage in aerial maneuvering over the Aegean almost on a daily basis.”
Commenting on the London meeting of PM Mitsotakis with Turkish President Erdogan, he said that “dialogue is always necessary, especially so when disagreements do exist.”
Concerning the EU’s practical sanctions on Turkey, Dendias called on Europe to continue showing its determination against Turkey’s illegal actions in the clearest possible way, stressing that “Turkey’s blackmail on Europe and its member states must stop, as we have made it clear to everyone that there is no tolerance for a country acting in breach of international law.”
The foreign affairs minister also pointed out that “we are on the right track for a delimitation agreement of Exclusive Economic Zones with our neighboring countries,” adding that “we are on the right track with Italy, as we have an agreed-upon text and I also believe we will move in a positive direction with Egypt.”
“Beyond all this,” he concluded, “it should be made clear that the delimitation of maritime zones occurs between neighboring countries. This is not the case with Turkey and Libya (…), as these are arbitrary and illegal actions, totally unfounded in terms of international law.”
in Athens expelled
“Libya’s Ambassador was summoned to the foreign ministry, where he was informed of the decision for his expulsion. He was given a 72-hour deadline to leave the country,” Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias stated on Friday.
The foreign minister noted that the decision reflects the Greek government’s dissatisfaction with the Tripoli government and noted that it was taken after “the Libyan side did not meet the terms that we set.”
Dendias added that the text of the agreement between Turkey and Libya bears the signature of the Libyan foreign minister, who had provided the Greek side with assurances of the opposite in September.
The expulsion does not constitute the severing of diplomatic relations, the foreign minister stressed.
Referring to the Turkey-Libya deal on the delimitation of the two countries’ maritime zones, the foreign minister said that its posting on the Turkish National Assembly’s website simply served to confirm Greece’s forecasts.
“The coordinates of the attempt to demarcate maritime zones confirm that this agreement is a gross violation of the International Law of the Sea and the sovereign rights of Greece and other states,” he said.
Dendias made it clear that, in addition to its formal defects, this attempt was unlawful and did not generate legal effects, while adding that it points to the deliberate provoking of tension on a bilateral and regional level. It is therefore unequivocally condemned, he underlined.
The foreign minister also referred to a letter from the head of the Libyan House of Representatives to the UN Secretary-General, in which he said the maritime boundaries memorandum was strange, in that Libya has no maritime borders with Turkey, and that Greece and Cyprus are in the midst of the borders that the agreement is trying to define. In the same letter, he also noted that the Libyan prime minister had no right to sign the agreement.
Moreover, Dendias confirmed that the president of the Libyan House of Representatives will be in Athens on Wednesday.
Turkey condemned Greece’s decision to expel the Libyan ambassador, stated Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday.
The so-called “memorandum” between Turkey and Libya is not only invalid but also utterly void legally, as it has no foundation in international law, President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopios Pavlopoulos stated on Friday from the city of Alexandroupolis, northeastern Greece, where he was attending celebrations for the city’s patron saint Agios Nikolaos.
Pavlopoulos underlined that with goodwill and complete sincerity, Greece sends the message to Turkey that “we, Greeks, have proved that we fully respect international and European law, and beyond everything, the fundamental human rights deriving from the international and European legal system”.
“This respect has made us, internationally and at a European level, an example to imitate,” Pavlopoulos said, adding that “within this framework we respect, to the same degree, every form of right enjoyed by our fellow citizens, the Muslims of Thrace, who are an entirely religious minority, as expressly stated in international law and particularly the Lausanne Treaty.”
Pavlopoulos said that Turkey should behave more responsible toward Greece, not only because its claims concerning the Greek Muslim community in Thrace amount to a distortion of history but also because its past is linked to inconceivable instances of persecution targeting Greeks and the Greek nation.
He said that Turkey’s stance toward humanity also characterises its attitude toward the refugees and the migrants, to whom “it behaves in a way that violates any sense of international law, reaching the point of using them as hostages or as a means to coerce Greece and the European Union,” he said, and called on the EU and the international community to act so as to oblige Turkey to comform with international and European legality, including through the imposition of sanctions.
Addressing Parliament on Friday, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis referred to his recent meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and said that Greece was preparing the next steps to counteract the memorandum of understanding signed by Turkey and Libya, stressing once again that this document was invalid and “meaningless”.
“There are two critical fronts that dominated the discussion I had with Mr. Erdogan. The first was Turkey’s aggressive attitude, which after its illegal actions within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Republic of Cyprus is now extending [these] to other areas. Its spearhead is an invalid document that Ankara has dubbed an ‘agreement’ with Libya, despite the fact that this initiative is already strongly disputed within Libya. The second issue is migration, where the neighbouring country has – especially recently, as I said to Mr Erdogan – complied with the obligations that arise from its joint statement with the EU. On these two issues, Greece has both a policy and a plan. Our actions are unfolding and they have already yielded results,” Mitsotakis said.
He noted that “the texts that Ankara is citing on the maritime zones generate no legal effect and are not going to be ratified, not only because they are geographically and historically flawed, removing Greek islands from the map, but also because they have led Turkey to an unprecedented diplomatic isolation. The United States, Russia, the EU, Egypt and Israel condemned Turkey’s stance within two hours. Even within the NATO framework, which has always maintained equal distances in our differences with Turkey, powerful countries have criticised the attitude of the neighboring country, starting with President Macron, who raised barriers to the aggression of our neighbours.”
Mitsotakis said the government was preparing for Greece’s next steps. “This document is not recognised by anyone and it means nothing, it will collapse. Not only because it is illegal but because there is no legal counterparty that has legitimacy to ratify it in Libya. And we will do everything in our power for this agreement not to apply,” he said.