Erdogan Says Deal Made With Trump Over Libya, Greece Unsaid

Αssociated Press

Turkey s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Fayez Sarraj, the head of Libya s internationally-recognized government, speak at a joint news conference, in Ankara, Turkey, Thursday, June 4, 2020. (Turkish Presidency via AP, Pool)

ANKARA -- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he and US President Donald Trump have reached agreements over Libya but it wasn't said if that is over a Turkey-Libya maritime deal diving the seas between them which has upset Greece.

The US and Greece have military and strategic agreements although Turkish officials earlier said those wouldn't hold if a conflict arises, as Turkey increases provocations in the Aegean and East Mediterranean and that Greece would find itself alone.

In a TV interview with the state broadcaster TRT, after a phone call with Trump, who said the Turkish President was a friend and a “hell of a leader” as Turkey leads the world in jailing journalists, Erdogan didn't elaborate on what agreements were discussed or made.

"After our talks on the transition process in Libya, a new era can begin between Turkey and the U.S.,” Erdogan said, after his office put out a statement that he and Trump agreed to continue cooperation on Libya.

Turkey’s support for Libya’s U.N.-supported government in Tripoli has propped up that government that Erdogan needs to keep the maritime deal in place although it's not recognized by any other country.

With Turkish aid, which has included military equipment, mercenaries and intelligence agents, the administration of helped shift the balance in the country, allowing the Tripoli-based forces of Fayez al-Sarraj retake the capital’s airport.

The Tobruk-based Libyan National Army, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar is supported by Greece, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, France and Russia in a break with the UN to which they belong.

The Tripoli-based government receives aid from Qatar, Italy and Turkey, which stepped up its military support in recent months and Erdogan said he would soon also discuss Libya with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

If growing tensions bring a conflict with Turkey, Greece can't count on much help from its allies, including the European Union to which it belongs, or the United States that expressed verbal support, Greece's former defense chief said.

Former Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, who had also been Chief of the Hellenic Navy General Staff, served the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA and told Mega TV that if a crisis occurs such as the 1996 Imia incident in the two countries almost went to war over who owned the uninhabited rocky islets of Imia were to occur now that Greece would likely find allies standing on the sidelines.

“If we need to go into a conflict, we will probably be alone. We have to make these calculations,” he said on the show, said the Sydney-based Greek City Times, adding that despite growing Turkish provocations in the Aegean and East Mediterranean that he doesn't think Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would go too far.

“As long as his work is done with his diplomatic moves, with his alliances, with his blackmail and with his lies about international law, he doesn’t need to make a fuss. The hot episode has other issues,” he said.