Turkish parliament backs contentious deal with Libya

International

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks before departing to attend a NATO leader’s summit in London, in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. Erdogan says there is no change in Turkey’s position that is holding up a NATO defense proposal for Poland and Baltic nations until the alliance supports Ankara’s concerns related to Syrian Kurdish fighters. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)

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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s parliament on Thursday endorsed a controversial deal on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean reached between Turkey and Libya’s U.N.-supported government.

Legislators approved the agreement which would give Turkey access to an economic zone across the Mediterranean, brushing aside objections by Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and the rival and competing power base in Libya.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed the agreement last week with Libya’s Tripoli-based government, led by Fayez Sarraj, which controls parts of the country’s west. The two also signed a security cooperation agreement.

The deals sparked outrage in the Libyan parliament, which is based in the east and is aligned with the self-styled Libyan National Army, led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter. Lawmakers there denounced the agreements as a “flagrant breach” of Libya’s security and sovereignty, saying they grant the Turkish government the right to use Libyan airspace and waters as well as build military bases on Libyan soil.

Greece, Cyprus and Egypt have also criticized the boundary agreement, calling it a serious breach of international law. The deal has added tension to an ongoing dispute with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt over oil-and-gas drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

Greece’s prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said he discussed the issue and other differences between Greece and Turkey with Erdogan on the sidelines of a NATO summit Wednesday in London, adding that both leaders “noted disagreements.”

Since 2015, Libya has been divided between two competing governments, one in the east, based in Benghazi, and the other in the west, in Tripoli. While the LNA and the eastern government enjoy the support of France, Russia and key Arab countries, the Tripoli-based government is backed by Italy, Turkey and Qatar.

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