AP NEWS

Egypt rejects Turkey-Libya deal on sea rights, security

December 19, 2019 GMT

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Egypt has told the U.N. Security Council it rejects two agreements between Turkey and Libya’s U.N.-supported government on maritime rights in the Mediterranean and military cooperation.

The maritime deal would give Turkey access to an economic zone across the Mediterranean, over the objections of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, which lie between Turkey and Libya geographically.

Egypt’s U.N. ambassador, Mohammed Edrees, said in the letter obtained Thursday by The Associated Press that by signing the deal last month Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj violated the 2015 agreement that established the country’s interim government, which the Security Council endorsed.

Edrees said the agreement requires the Presidency Council as a whole — not just the president of the council acting alone — to conclude international agreements. And they have to be endorsed by the House of Representatives, he said.

The ambassador said the House of Representatives has not endorsed the two memorandums of understanding with Turkey.

The Tripoli-based government issued a statement Thursday saying its Cabinet had agreed to “activate” the memorandum of understanding on security cooperation between itself and Turkey. It did not specify what the deal would entail.

Edrees’ letter, however, said the military cooperation agreement allows “the transfer of weapons and ammunition to Mr. Serraj and the western militias.” He said that “clearly violates” Security Council resolutions on Libya, particularly the arms embargo on the country, which is adjacent to Egypt’s western border.

Turkish President Recep Tayyeb Erdogan has said the maritime agreement gives his country the right to send troops to Libya to fend off forces opposing the Libyan-government based in Tripoli, which doesn’t control the whole country.

The Egyptian government “rejects and does not recognize any measures, conduct or legal effects that may arise from the memorandums of understanding,” Erdees said.

Egypt called on the United Nations to reject any efforts to give legal validity to the two memorandums, Edrees said.

Libya has been in turmoil since a civil war in 2011 toppled Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed. In the chaos that followed, the country was divided, with a weak U.N.-supported administration in Tripoli overseeing the country’s west and a rival government in the east aligned with the Libyan National Army led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter. Each side is supported by an array of militias and foreign governments.

Hifter launched a surprise military offensive April 4 aimed at capturing Tripoli despite commitments to attend a national conference weeks later aimed at forming a united government and moving toward elections. Fighting for Tripoli stalled in recent months, and Hifter announced on Dec. 12 that his troops were embarking on a new “decisive” battle to capture the capital.

The Libyan National Army and the eastern government enjoy the support of France, Russia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and other key Arab countries while the Tripoli-based government is backed by Italy, Turkey and Qatar.

Egypt’s letter is part of the fallout from the Turkey-Libya agreements.

Neighbors Greece and Turkey are divided by a series of decades-old issues, including territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea. The NATO allies have come to the brink of war three times since the 1970s, including once over drilling rights in the Aegean, and Greece ordered the expulsion of the Libyan ambassador in a recent escalation of the dispute.

Greece insists Turkey’s deal with Libya’s U.N.-supported government is unenforceable. Like its European Union partners, Greece recognizes the Tripoli-based administration in Libya’s west.

Meanwhile, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades spoke by phone Thursday with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. A statement from Cyprus’ government spokesman said the two leaders agreed that “all necessary measures” must be taken to obstruct the implementation of the agreemenst.

“The Egyptian president considers that the possible military presence of Turkey in Libya creates an immediate danger for the destabilization of the region,” the statement said.

The European Union has also opposed the maritime agreement, saying it “infringes upon the sovereign rights of third states, does not comply with the Law of the Sea and cannot produce any legal consequences for third states.”

“The European Council unequivocally reaffirms its solidarity with Greece and Cyprus regarding these actions by Turkey,” the council said.

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Associated Press writers Raf Casert in Brussels, Menelaos Hadjicostis in Nicosia, Cyprus, and Maggie Hyde in Cairo contributed to this report