ROME — A maritime border agreement between Turkey and Libya’s U.N.-backed government is “unacceptable,” violates international law and flouts the sovereign rights of other countries, the foreign ministers of Italy and Cyprus said Wednesday..
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and his Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides said in a joint statement after talks in Rome that the deal cannot have any legal impact on other countries.
Turkey says the deal grants its economic rights to a large swath of the east Mediterranean sea and prevents any energy-related projects from moving forward without Ankara’s consent.
One such project that Israel, Cyprus and Greece had agreed on earlier this month is an envisioned undersea pipeline ferrying natural gas discovered in the east Mediterranean to European markets.
A feasibility study is being carried out on the project which has U.S. and European Union backing . Officials say it aims to lessen Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.
Cyprus, Greece and Egypt have denounced the Turkey-Libya deal as infringing on waters where they claim economic rights. Officials from Libya’s rival government based in the east of the country have also rejected the agreement.
Christodoulides and Di Maio also agreed that the E.U. should expedite sanctions against specific individuals and companies involved in Turkey’s exploratory gas drilling inside Cyprus’ economic zone.
Turkey has dispatched warship-escorted vessels to drill for gas in waters off Cyprus, including in areas — or blocks — where energy companies Eni of Italy and France’s Total have been licensed by the Cypriot government to carry out a hydrocarbons search.
Cypriot officials say two energy companies, which hold licenses for seven of 13 blocks south of Cyprus, are scheduled to drill nine exploratory wells over the next 24 months.
EU leaders have condemned Turkey’s actions. Di Maio reiterated Italy’s full solidarity with Cyprus against Turkey’s drilling activities that are “completely disregarding Cyprus’ sovereignty and sovereign rights.”
Turkey says it’s acting to protect its rights and those of breakaway Turkish Cypriots in ethnically divided Cyprus to the area’s energy reserves. Turkey claims a large portion of Cyprus’ economic zone as falling within its own continental shelf and is drilling at specific targets in line with separate agreements with Turkish Cypriots
Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of uniting the island nation with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a self-styled Turkish Cypriot state in the island’s northern third. Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, but EU law applies only to the southern part where the internationally recognized government is seated.
The Cyprus government said any future gas proceeds will be equitably shared with Turkish Cypriots after a deal reunifying the island is reached.