AP NEWS

Cyprus rallies neighbors to buck Turkey-Libya maritime deal

December 20, 2019 GMT

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The president of Cyprus said Friday that he’s in touch with the leaders of Egypt, Israel, Greece and Lebanon to formulate joint diplomatic action aimed at countering a Turkey-Libya maritime border deal that they say flouts international law and ratchets up regional tensions.

President Nicos Anastasiades said joint action doesn’t include a military option, but rather a concerted effort on a diplomatic level to negate the the aims of the “unlawful” agreement.

Anastasiades said the agreement has also been condemned by Arab nations, European Union member states and other countries he didn’t specify, adding that announcements on specific actions could be expected shortly.

Turkey says its deal with Libya’s U.N.-recognized government grants it economic rights to a large swath of the eastern Mediterranean.

But other countries in the region, including Greece and Cyprus, say the deal unlawfully truncates their own economic zones and impedes their rights to offshore exploration for hydrocarbons.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly said the agreement means that no oil and gas exploration or any other “projects” can proceed in the area without Ankara’s permission.

One such project Erdogan may have been alluding to is an envisioned gas pipeline conveying gas from Israeli and Cypriot offshore deposits to mainland Europe via Greece.

The results of a feasibility study on the pipeline dubbed East Med are still pending.

Cyprus’ government spokesman, Kyriakos Koushios, said Friday that in a telephone conversation with Anastasiades, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recommended that his country, Cyprus and Greece immediately sign an agreement to get work started on the East Med pipeline.

Turkey doesn’t recognize EU-member Cyprus as a state and claims 44 percent of its exclusive economic zone. It has dispatched drill ships to search for hydrocarbons off Cyprus, including in an area where the Cyprus government has licensed a consortium made up of Italian energy company Eni and French Total to carry out exploratory drilling.

Turkey says it’s acting to protect its interests and those of Turkish Cypriots in the breakaway northern third of ethnically split Cyprus to the area’s energy resources.

The EU has called Turkey’s actions illegal and has imposed sanctions against the country.