ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece said on Friday it was expelling the Libyan ambassador, angered at an accord between Libya and Turkey signed on Nov. 27 that maps out a sea boundary between the two countries close to the Greek island of Crete.
A Libyan flag flutters atop the Libyan Consulate in Athens, Greece, December 6, 2019. REUTERS/Costas Baltas
Mohamed Younis AB Menfi had 72 hours to leave the country, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias told a news briefing. Dendias called the Turkey-Libyan accord a “blatant violation of international law”.
The move did not mean Greece was severing diplomatic relations with Libya, Dendias said. Another foreign ministry official said Libya had ‘deceived’ Greece.
“This is a legally invalid document,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told parliament.
“Not only is it geographically and historically invalid – wiping Greek islands off the map – but because it led Turkey to an unprecedented diplomatic isolation,” he said.
“Its just a piece of paper nobody recognises.”
The Libyan embassy in Athens said it had no comment.
The expulsion is the latest twist in a saga of Mediterranean states jostling to claim yet-untapped oil and gas in the region.
Turkey and the internationally recognised government of Libya signed the accord in November defining their boundaries and a deal on expanded security and military cooperation, a step Turkey said was protecting its rights. [nL8N2882ZR]
Greece immediately shot back, calling the accord absurd because it ignored the presence of Crete between the coasts of Turkey and Libya.
Greece asked Libya for details of the deal last week.
“The text of this agreement carries the signature of the Libyan foreign minister. It is the same person who, in September, had assured the Greek side otherwise,” Dendias said.
Mitsotakis said the speaker of Libya’s parliament would be in Athens in coming days for consultations.
Greece and Turkey are at odds over a host of issues ranging from mineral rights in the Aegean Sea to ethnically-split Cyprus. Tensions are also running high because of Turkish drilling off Cyprus, and the European Union has prepared sanctions against Turkey in response.
On Thursday, Cyprus said it was petitioning the International Court of Justice to safeguard its offshore rights.[nL8N28F20X]
Additional reporting by George Georgiopoulos, Editing by Catherine Evans, William Maclean