Concerned EU weighs response to Turkey-Libya border deal

National News

FILE – In this Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018 file photo Mohamed Younis A.B. Menfi Ambassador of Libya in Greece attends a ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Athens. Greece’s foreign minister says on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, his country is expelling the Libyan ambassador in the latest escalation of a dispute over a controversial deal between Libya’s UN-supported government and Turkey on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean. (John Liakos/InTime News via AP, File)

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Brussels (AP) —

The European Union’s top diplomat said Monday that some EU countries are concerned over Turkey’s controversial maritime border agreement with Libya but that the bloc will continue studying the deal before deciding whether to take action.

The maritime deal, endorsed by the Turkish parliament last week, has fueled tensions in Turkey’s long-running dispute with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt over oil and gas drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

The deal could give Turkey access to a contested economic zone across the eastern Mediterranean Sea and Greece has already expelled the Libyan ambassador over it.

“It’s clear that it is problematic. It poses major concerns to certain member states, in particular Greece and Cyprus,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters after chairing a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers in Brussels.

Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt, which lie between Turkey and Libya geographically, have blasted the accord as being contrary to international law.

Borrell declined to say that the agreement breaks the law, but he said that “we are going to be studying this question very closely, being clear that any agreement must respect international law.”

Some of Greece and Cyprus’s partners were unequivocal.

“The Netherlands is always a staunch supporter of the rule of international law, and we side with Greece,” said Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok. “International law should be upheld.”

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said “it’s a little bit astounding how they split up the Mediterranean among themselves. We’ll have to see how we deal with it.”

Although they are NATO allies, neighbors Greece and Turkey are divided by a series of decades-old rows, including territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea, and have come to the brink of war three times since the 1970s, including once over drilling rights in the Aegean.

In Cairo, parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Al warned that “Egypt will not stand idle by while a foreign country is threatening its interests,” according to the official MENA news agency.

“Anyone who approaches the maritime, air, and land borders of Egypt should review himself. We will not accept or allow any mess at or close to our borders,” he was quoted as saying, in reference to Turkey.

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Elena Becatoros in Athens, Menelaos Hadjicostis in Nicosia and Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed to this report.

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