Turkey and Libya could hold joint exploration activities in the eastern Mediterranean, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday after the two governments signed a maritime deal.
Such a move would likely further anger Greece which has criticised the Libya-Turkey agreement as a violation of international maritime law and an infringement on Greek islands’ right to maritime boundaries.
“With this agreement, we have increased the territory over which we have authority to the maximum level. We can conduct joint exploration activities,” Erdogan said in an interview with state TRT broadcaster.
The president said Turkey would obtain another drilling ship for the eastern Mediterranean, adding that Ankara could enlarge exploration efforts to the Black Sea and even international waters.
Turkey already has ships searching for oil and gas off Cyprus, which has also fueled tension with the island and the European Union. Brussels has threatened sanctions to deter Ankara’s activities there.
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The Turkish leader said Ankara was ready to provide any kind of help to the UN-recognised government in Tripoli in the event of a request for assistance.
“If Libya makes a request, Turkey will make its own decision. We will not ask anyone for permission,” he added.
Turkey has come under criticism from Greece and others after signing a military deal last month with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.
They agreed deals on security and military cooperation, as well as maritime jurisdictions.
However, Athens says part of the deal sets a maritime boundary between the two countries, which Greece says does not take into account the island of Crete.
The Greek foreign ministry on Friday expelled the Libyan ambassador for failing to disclose the deal’s contents.
Erdogan said he was hoping to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Libya where Moscow is suspected of providing military support to eastern Libya’s strongman Khalifa Haftar.
Haftar earlier this year began an assault on the Tripoli base of the GNA, and Russian mercenaries were accused of backing up his forces, which Russia denied.
“I hope that the Haftar issue does not breed a new Syria in our relations with Russia,” Erdogan said.
Although Ankara and Moscow have been working closely to end the Syrian civil war, they are on opposing sides of the eight-year conflict.
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