‘Libya deal shows Turkey determined to protect rights’

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan

With the maritime deal between Turkey and Libya, Ankara has shown the world its determination to protect its rights under international law, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday.

Erdogan was speaking at a live televised interview with TRT, country’s public broadcaster.

On Nov. 27, Turkey and Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli signed the bilateral memorandum.

The memorandum asserts Turkey’s rights in the Eastern Mediterranean in the face of unilateral drilling by the Greek Cypriot administration, clarifying that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also has rights to the resources in the area.

Noting that Turkey has the longest coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, Erdogan said: “With this deal, we have taken a rightful step within the framework of international law against the approaches tried to be imposed by Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration and the claims of maritime jurisdictions aiming to confine our country to the Gulf of Antalya.”

Erdogan recalled that a step was taken on the issue long ago, but it could not be proceeded due to then Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s death.

Since 2011, when longtime ruler Gaddafi was ousted and killed, Libya has seen the emergence of two rival seats of power: one in eastern Libya, to which military commander Khalifa Haftar is affiliated, and the Government of National Accord, which enjoys UN recognition.

Erdogan also said that some countries were disturbed by the deal, while similar deals were inked by Greek Cypriot administration, Egypt, Lebanon and Israel in the past 20 years, ignoring Turkey’s rights and international law in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Speaking about Turkey’s exploration and drilling activities in there, Erdogan said that his country is set to buy another drill ship and that the country will carry on its activities not only in Mediterranean but also in Black Sea and “maybe even” in international waters.

Turkey currently has two drilling and two seismic exploration ships, he added.

“Other international actors cannot conduct exploration activities in the areas marked in the memorandum.

“Greek Cypriots, Egypt, Greece and Israel cannot establish a natural gas transmission line without Turkey’s consent,” he added.

To a question about a possible military assistance call from Libya’s GNA, Erdogan said such a call from the Tripoli-based government, and Libyan nation gives Turkey that right to answer the call.

“In case of such an invitation, Turkey will decide itself about what kind of initiative to undertake,” Erdogan said.

He also noted that Russia, the UAE and Egypt were violating the UN embargo on arms sales to Libya by providing military assistance to Haftar forces in the country.

On Russia’s approach to Libya, Erdogan said he wants to have a phone call with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin within a week to talk about the issue.

He noted that any support given to Haftar is illegal just like his forces.

Erdogan also said Putin will visit Istanbul on Jan. 8 and they will inaugurate the TurkStream project.

The TurkStream natural gas pipeline has a total capacity of 31.5 billion cubic meters, out of which the first line will carry a capacity of 15.75 billion cubic meters of Russian gas to Turkish consumers. The second line will carry another 15.75 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe via Turkey.

Safe zone in northern Syria 

On the planned safe zone in northern Syria, Erdogan said both deals reached separately with Russia and the U.S. have failed to yield the expected result.

Turkey aims to settle 1 million Syrians in areas between Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn in planned safe zone in northern Syria, the Turkish president said.

Under the deals with the U.S. and Russia, Turkey paused anti-terror Operation Peace Spring to allow the withdrawal of YPG/PKK terrorists from a planned Syrian safe zone.

The operation was launched to eliminate YPG/PKK terrorists from northern Syria east of the Euphrates River in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.

Ankara wants YPG/PKK terrorists to withdraw from the region so a safe zone can be created to pave the way for the safe return of some 2 million refugees.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and EU — has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The terrorist YPG is the PKK’s Syrian offshoot.

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