ATHENS – At the signing of the EastMed pipeline deal aimed at bringing more energy into the European Union, the tripartite partners of Greece, Cyprus and israel teamed to blast Turkey’s plans to send troops to Libya after those two countries signed a deal dividing the seas between them.
That includes waters off Cyprus where Turkey is already drilling for oil and gas and off Crete, where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would send ships to also hunt for energy.
But troop deployment of Turkish soldiers to a divided Libya – split between a United Nations-recognized government supported by Turkey and rebels who run the Parliament, backed by Greece, is a dangerous escalation, said the leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Israel.
“This decision constitutes a gross violation of the UNSC resolution…imposing an arms embargo in Libya and seriously undermines the international community’s efforts to find a peaceful, political solution to the Libyan conflict,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said in the statement.
That came after the Turkish parliament overwhelmingly approved a bill that allows troops to be deployed in Libya in a move that could spur more military cooperation, putting the US in a tough position.
The US and Greece have a military cooperation agreement and Washington wants a bigger military presence in Greece, but US President Donald Trump said Erdogan is a friend of his and has been reluctant to get tough with the Turkish leader.
Erdogan and the UN-backed Libya government led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj signed agreements for military and maritime deals that claim some of the waters that Greece, Cyprus and Israel also said they controlled.
The three countries also called on Turkey to refrain from sending its troops to Libya, which would violate Libyan national sovereignty and independence but Erdogan has shown repeatedly he doesn’t care what the international community thinks, as he has ignored calls by Cyprus, Greece and the US to stop drilling off Cyprus as well as soft European Union sanctions that didn’t work.