During Diplomatic Storm, Greek Foreign Minister Visits Libya


Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias. (Photo by Eurokinissi/ Sotiris Dimitropoulos)

Compounding a dilemma for Greece, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias went to Libya to meet the leader of a rebel group fighting a United Nations-backed government that signed a deal with Turkey dividing the seas between them, claiming waters off Greek islands.

Dendias was expected to met with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, leader of the Libyan National Army fighting the Libyan government, Arab media reports said as he headed to Benghazi as Greece got European Union support condemning the Turkey-Libya deal.

Ironically, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent the accord to the UN, seeking approval for an agreement that, if granted, would pit the UN against Greece, which is siding with the rebels.

In divided Libya, Benghazi is the seat of the Libyan House of Representatives, to which Hafter is loyal. The Tripoli-based government has signed a “maritime borders” deal with Turkey to which every other country in the eastern Mediterranean objects.

That comes after Dendias went to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates the previous days to line up more backing for Greece against Turkey, which has become an outlier as it seeks to expand its presence in the Aegean and East Mediterranean..

Erdogan said he would send troops to help the UN-backed government against the rebel side that Greece supports although it’s unclear what other countries would do as the problem worsens.

There are reports that Russian mercenaries are fighting alongside Khalifa’s army and the US - which has signed military cooperation deals with Greece although President Donald Trump backs  Turkey - is worried the conflict in Libya will escalate.

The US is also concerned about the increased Russian presence as Washington still recognizes the Tripoli-based “government of National Accord” headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, which Greece doesn’t, seeking to work with the rebels against the US and Turkey.

Greece expelled the Libyan Ambassador after the al-Sarraj government’s deal with Turkey with the UN, as usual, staying on the sidelines, refusing to get involved, as has NATO, the defense alliance to which Greece and Turkey belong, which wants no part of the duel.