Middle East

Greece expels Libyan ambassador in dispute with Turkey

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece ordered the expulsion of the Libyan ambassador Friday, in the latest escalation of a dispute over a controversial deal signed between Libya’s U.N.-supported government and Turkey on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean.

Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said the ambassador had been summoned to the ministry in the morning to be informed of the decision, and was given 72 hours to leave the country.

The deal reached between Libya and Turkey would give Turkey access to an economic zone across the Mediterranean, over the objections of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, which lie between Turkey and Libya geographically.

All three have blasted the accord as being contrary to international law. The deal has added tension to Turkey’s ongoing dispute with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt over oil and gas drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

Although NATO allies, neighbors Greece and Turkey are divided by a series of decades-old issues, 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.

The accord “constitutes a raw violation of the law of the sea and of the sovereign rights of Greece and of other countries,” Dendias said, adding it was a deliberate attempt to create tension “both on a bilateral and on a regional level.”

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis sought the support of fellow NATO members on the issue during an alliance meeting in London earlier this week.

“The texts which Ankara refers to regarding maritime zones will not be ratified because they are wrong geographically and historically, wiping Greek islands off the map and leading Turkey to an unprecedented diplomatic isolation,” Mitsotakis said during a speech in parliament Friday.

Turkey’s parliament on Thursday endorsed the deal that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed last week with Libya’s Tripoli-based government, led by Fayez Sarraj, which controls parts of the country’s west. They two have also signed a security cooperation agreement.

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

Libya has been divided between two competing governments since 2015, one based in Benghazi in the east and the other based in Tripoli.

Reporting by Elena Becatoros

Image: Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis arrives for a meeting with Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte at Chigi Palace premier’s office, in Rome, on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019 (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

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