Turkiye-Libya Gas Deal Exacerbates Regional Situation

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who was visiting Tripoli on October 3, signed with Najla Mangoush, Foreign Minister of the Government of National Unity (GoNU), memoranda on cooperation between the two countries in the oil and gas sector, including joint exploration. The deals were also signed by the North African country’s Minister of Economy and Trade, Muhammad Al-Hawij, and his Turkish counterpart, Fatih Donmez.

Turkish Foreign Minister M. Çavuşoğlu told at a press conference in Libya that Turkey wants to sign a gas agreement with that country. Under the said deal, the North African country will grant oil and gas exploration licenses to Turkish companies based on the 2019 maritime boundary agreement between the two countries, which is contested by Greece and Cyprus.

Libyan Prime Minister of the GoNU Abdel Hamid Dbeibah said during a government meeting on October 6 that Turkey and Libya will jointly develop the Mediterranean gas shelf, pointing to Libya’s exclusive plans for the region and rejecting any criticism of the Turkish-Libyan agreement on energy cooperation.

Earlier, Libyan Minister of Oil and Gas of the GoNU M. Aoun said the 2019 agreement to demarcate the maritime border with Turkey had given Libya a huge water area where Libya had discovered 29 oil and 12 gas fields, according to a study conducted by the Ministry. Regarding the said oil and gas reserves, former Turkish Chief of Staff of the Naval Forces Rear Admiral Cihat Yaycı states, according to the Libyan Express, that the reserves north of Libya’s maritime jurisdiction are equivalent to about $30 trillion.

The agreements reached between Turkey and Libya have triggered contradictory reactions locally, regionally and internationally.

Egypt and Greece, Al Arabiya reported on October 4, have already questioned the legitimacy of the agreement signed between Turkey and Libya’s Government of National Unity on joint oil and gas exploration. The countries agreed to coordinate their actions in order to respond jointly to the memoranda signed. During a telephone conversation between Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias, it was stressed that the outgoing GoNU in Tripoli has no authority to conclude any international agreements or memoranda of understanding.

Greece is on record as saying it does not want to tolerate violations of the 2020 agreement it signed with Egypt. It stressed that it would defend its sovereign rights on the basis of international law, in particular the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. This issue was also discussed very critically during a meeting on October 3 between the Greek Foreign Minister, Nikos Dendias, and the French Ambassador to Greece, Patrick Maisonnave.

Libyan House of Representatives Speaker Aguila Saleh expressed his strong opposition to the agreement, asking the UN Secretary-General not to recognize the agreements signed between Libya’s Government of National Unity and Turkey. Earlier, Saleh had stressed that the signing of international agreements was the sole prerogative of the Fathi Bashagha government elected by parliament. Ministers from the government formed by Fathi Bashagha were sworn in in March before parliament in the city of Tobruk. However, because the incumbent head of the Government of National Unity, Abdel Hamid Dbeibah, refused to hand over power before the presidential election, the country is in dual power and Fathi Bashagha, after a failed attempt to place the cabinet in Tripoli, began working with his government in the city of Sirte.

The 73 members of the High Council of State also said they refused to sign the agreement, considering its terms “vague”.

As for Ankara, it considers the Greek and Egyptian position on the signing of the memoranda as one-sided, as Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hami Aksoy said.

Some Turkish military officials also took part in criticism of the opponents of the October 3 memoranda. Thus, Rear Admiral Yaycı’s statement that Turkish ships could begin seismic surveys and exploration within a few months is quoted by the Turkish portal Haber 7. Regarding Greece’s objections to the agreement, he noted that Athens wants “to absorb territory the size of four Cypriot islands in the Mediterranean.” Meanwhile, the former Turkish Chief of Staff of the Naval Forces stressed the importance of starting exploration and drilling activities in the area between east of the line drawn in the agreement delimiting the Libyan-Turkish maritime jurisdiction and west of the 28th degree of east longitude.

The intense fighting over gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean Sea has not only given the region a new heightened profile for local powers, but has also given rise to the threat of escalating conflict there. This is largely due to the fact that most European countries are now particularly dependent on energy imports and therefore securing new sources of gas is an important part of enhancing their energy security and diversifying their sources of hydrocarbon supply. It is therefore not surprising that in addition to Turkey, Libya, Egypt and Greece, France has also become involved in the new escalation in the eastern Mediterranean, although it is not alone in wanting to be an indirect beneficiary of new resources, even if such actors do not have direct access to gas fields. But they look forward to diversifying their gas imports and spreading their hydrocarbon dependence among a large number of suppliers.

 However, it should not be forgotten that the emergence of a “new hydrocarbon treasure trove” may, as has happened in recent history, not only be beneficial, but also problematic, as natural resources are often a source of conflict. The case of the Eastern Mediterranean is no exception in this respect. Especially when one considers the significantly increased military presence of many countries in the region, as well as several dangerous incidents involving Turkish and Greek warships that have taken place in recent months. And both sides have stated their readiness to open fire as a last resort…

By Vladimir Odintsov
Source: New Eastern Outlook

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