Turkey and Libya sign agreements on maritime hydrocarbons

Turkey’s foreign minister signed a deal in Libya’s capital on Monday allowing oil and gas exploration in Libya’s Mediterranean waters, three years after a maritime border deal that angered European nations.

“We have signed a memorandum of understanding for mixed Turkish-Libyan companies to explore for hydrocarbons in Libya’s territorial waters and soil,” Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a press conference in Tripoli.

The deal follows an accord Turkey signed with authorities in Tripoli in 2019, which demarcated the countries’ shared maritime borders but sparked anger in Greece and Cyprus.

However, Cavusoglu emphasized on Monday that the new deal is between “two sovereign countries – it’s a win-win situation for both, and other countries have no right to interfere”.

Najla al-Mangoush, foreign minister of the Libyan government of national unity, said the new deal was “important,” especially given “the Ukraine crisis and its impact” on energy markets.

The deal was rejected by a rival government in the east of the war-torn country.

In November 2019, Turkey signed a controversial security agreement with the then UN-recognized government of Libya, which laid claim to extensive, potentially gas-rich areas of the Mediterranean Sea.

The deal came at the culmination of years of fighting between rival governments vying for control of the Libyan capital.

The arrival of Turkish drones shortly thereafter was seen as crucial in the victory of Tripoli-based forces against those of eastern military chief Khalifa Haftar, who was then backed by Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.

– “Unacceptable” –

Turkey continues to play a major role in western Libya, where rival governments are once again vying for supremacy two years after the end of the last major conflict.

A government appointed by the eastern Libyan parliament has been trying to take office in Tripoli since March, but has so far failed.

Both the speaker of parliament and the head of the rival government rejected Monday’s agreement.

Spokeswoman Aguila Saleh, who has long argued that the Tripoli-based government’s mandate has expired, called the deal “illegal and unacceptable,” while the rival government of former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha threatened to annul it in court.

Cavusoglu was accompanied in Tripoli by a high-level delegation including Turkey’s energy, defense and trade ministers.

Libya has descended into violence for more than a decade since the ouster of dictator Muamer Gaddafi in a NATO-backed insurgency in 2011.

Dozens of armed groups have struggled for influence, backed by several foreign powers.