The Turkish Petroleum Company “TPAO” officially asked the Government of National Accord in Libya, headed by Fayez Al-Sarraj, to obtain permission to drill in the eastern Mediterranean, according to the Turkish Anadolu News Agency on Thursday.
The state-run news agency quoted Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Donmez as saying that the exploration work will begin “as soon as the process is completed.”
This action may increase tensions in the region, where a dispute has been raging for years between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, as well as other regional powers over ownership of natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean.
This will be the fourth exploration by Turkey since last July.
The Sarraj government in Tripoli had signed an agreement with Turkey in November 2019 to establish an exclusive economic zone from the southern Turkish coast on the Mediterranean to the northeastern coast of Libya.
This sparked widespread international anger, especially from Cyprus, Greece and the European Union, because of the agreement they describe as contrary to international law.
Turkey’s Eyes on Libya
In October, 2019, Egypt, Cyprus and Greece expressed deep concerns of “illegal and illegitimate” military operation by Turkey in east Syria.
After tripartite talks between Egypt, Cyprus and Greece, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, President Nicos Anastasiades and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis reiterated importance of increasing exerted efforts to foster security, stability, prosperity and peace in the east Mediterranean region.
President Sisi hosted the meeting at Ettahadiya Palace, eastern Cairo.
It’s the most recent summit between the three countries’ leaders aimed at forming an energy-based alliance in the east Mediterranean.
The seventh Trilateral Summit highlighted the need to respect international law, amidst Turkish illegal activities in Cyprus` exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The first summit was launched in late 2014 in Cairo; three of them were hosted by Cairo.
Turkey dispatched vessels to drill hydrocarbons inside Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone, claiming it is protecting its own interests and those of Turkish Cypriots.
Libya’s GNA and Turkey signed an agreement on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea that could complicate Ankara’s disputes over energy exploration with other countries.
Turkey, Libya signed illegal agreements
Turkey, which announced the accord and a deal on expanded security and military cooperation, gave no details of their memorandum of understanding and did not specify where Turkish and Libyan waters meet.
Accordingly, Egypt dismissed the deal as “illegal”, and Greece said any such accord would be geographically absurd because it ignored the presence of the Greek island of Crete between the coasts of Turkey and Libya.
Turkey does not recognize Cyprus as a state — but does recognize the breakaway Turkish Cypriot entity, the only country to do so — and is conducting exploratory gas drilling in waters where the ethnically divided island nation has exclusive economic rights.
In January, the parliament of Libya voted unanimously to cut ties with Turkey and close embassies in the two countries, according to parliament spokesman Abdullah Bleihaq.
The parliament referred the GNA and his foreign minister to the public prosecutor.
Moreover, the parliament categorically rejected the ratification of a military agreement with Turkey and voted to cut diplomatic ties with Ankara instead.
The head of the defense committee in parliament also demanded that Sarraj be charged with treason. The head of the foreign committee announced that parliament would ask the United Nations Security Council to hold an emergency session.
The foreign committee also called for an international and Arab action to prevent Turkish interference in Libya.
Libya, once one of the most prosperous nations in Africa, remains fractured and devastated since the 2011 NATO bombing campaign that helped militant forces oust and kill long-time leader Muammar Gaddhafi.
After the war, the country became a playground for various competing militias, as well as a major human trafficking thoroughfare.
Turkey has already sent some Syrian rebels to fight in Libya and assembled more in training camps in Turkey to prepare for deployment, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an independent monitoring outfit.