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The New Arab

Greek foreign minister visits east Libya amid Turkey tensions

Nikos Dendias landed briefly at Benghazi airport on Sunday [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 December, 2019

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Nikos Dendias landed briefly at Benghazi airport where he met the head of Libya's parallel eastern government Abdullah al-Thani and its foreign minister Abdulhadi Lahweej.
Greece's foreign minister visited eastern Libya's Benghazi on Sunday, meeting representatives of strongman Khalifa Haftar's administration amid tensions with Turkey following Ankara's recent maritime agreement with Tripoli's unity government.

Nikos Dendias landed briefly at Benghazi airport where he met the head of Libya's parallel eastern government Abdullah al-Thani and its foreign minister Abdulhadi Lahweej, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

Lahweej said they discussed the controversial maritime delimitation deal Ankara signed in November with Tripoli's UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), which expanded Turkey's claims over a large gas-rich area of the Mediterranean.

Libya is split between bitterly opposed administrations in the east and west. Since April, forces loyal to eastern-based Haftar have been fighting to seize the capital Tripoli.

Athens says the deal between Ankara and the GNA violates international maritime law and the sovereign rights of Greece and other countries.

On December 10, Greece urged the United Nations to condemn the maritime jurisdiction deal as "disruptive" to regional peace and stability.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday vowed Turkey would increase military support to Libya if necessary, and evaluate all options.

His comments come a day after the Turkish parliament ratified a security and military cooperation deal signed between Ankara and Tripoli last month.

"We will evaluate all kinds of military support including ground, marine and air options if necessary," Erdogan said during a speech in the northwestern province of Kocaeli.

 

Although Erdogan has said Turkey is willing to send troops to Libya, the government must seek a separate mandate from the Turkish parliament to send forces to fight there.

Turkey supports the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli in the struggle against eastern Libya strongman Khalifa Haftar.

Haftar is backed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, countries with whom Turkey has tense or limited relations.

Forces loyal to Haftar said on Saturday they had seized a Turkish ship to search its cargo, but Ankara has made no official comment on the claim.

Turkey was criticised over the military deal with Libya and a separate maritime jurisdiction agreement, also signed in November.

Read more: Turkish-Libyan alliance in eastern Mediterranean: A game changer?

Part of the deal sets a maritime boundary between the two countries which Greece says does not take into account the island of Crete.

But Erdogan on Sunday said Turkey would not "take a step back" from any Libya agreement despite opposition from Greece and Cyprus over maritime boundaries.

"Those who are against us have no awareness of rights, law, justice, ethics or mercy," he added.

Haftar in June ordered his forces to target Turkish interests in Libya.

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