Beyond the controversial Turkish maritime agreement: Greece seeks cooperation in energy, construction, maritime transport, health, security, tourism, education and culture
By Sami Zaptia.
London, 7 April 2021:
Welcoming Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to Tripoli at their joint press conference yesterday, Libyan prime minister Abd Alhamid Aldabaiba said Libya sought to restore diplomatic relations and raise their representation in accordance with the common interests between the two countries. Greece had cut diplomatic relations with Libya during the former Faiez Serraj administration over Libya’s Maritime Agreement with Turkey.
He said they discussed the reopening of the Greek embassy in Tripoli, the provision of consular services, the most important of which is the granting of visas from inside Libya, the opening of air space between the two sides, cooperation in the health file and the exchange of experiences in the health field.
Aldabaiba said he look forward to greater cooperation between Greece and Libya in the economic field, and the activation of all agreements in the field of energy and maritime trade, as well as previous cooperation in the field of military training, especially in the maritime domain.
With regard to Libya’s agreement with Turkey regarding defining the exclusive maritime economic zone, Libya always emphasized the importance of any agreement that contributes to developing appropriate solutions and preserving the rights of Libya, Greece and Turkey, Aldabaiba said.
He said Libya was also ready to form joint committees with Greece to resume negotiations on demarcating the maritime borders to define the exclusive economic zone for both countries between Crete and Libya, and sought to build relations based on good neighbourliness and mutual respect and to extend bridges of cooperation between the two shores of the Mediterranean, which striving to make it a sea of peace.
Aldabaiba said his government works for fruitful relations with everyone, especially regional countries and Mediterranean countries, with which it shares common interests according to mutual respect, in a way that guarantees the interests of Libya and its sovereignty.
With regard to agreements, he said Libya is looking for its interests just as other countries look for their interests, and that it will study all agreements, especially Turkish and Greek-Libyan ones, with the interests of Libya and its people first, and then the interests of its neighbours and partners in the region.
For his part, Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he came to Tripoli for the first time with the primary goal of highlighting the resumption of the work of the Greek Embassy in Tripoli as a milestone and a dynamic resumption of Greek-Libyan cooperation.
He also said he came to deliver a message of support for the efforts aimed at building peace and progress in Libya, and that Greece will stand by Libya’s side, whether on the framework of the European Union or through the United Nations, on the road to achieving fair elections and a normal political life and rebuilding Libya away from foreign armies and interests, and the only criterion is security and prosperity in the neighbourhood and in the Mediterranean Sea.
He said he thought the time has come for both countries to leave behind everything that has disturbed their relations during the past period, and revealed that after resuming the work of the embassy in Tripoli, it will be followed by the opening of the General Consulate in Benghazi, which will work to develop cooperation between the two countries in all fields at a rapid pace.
Mitsotakis said perhaps developments in recent decades have reduced bilateral economic relations, but in fact the presence of Greek businessmen in Libya has never stopped and with the stability of the political situation in the country, this interest will increase in activity.
He revealed he had discussed with Aldabaiba the prospects for bilateral cooperation in several sectors such as energy, construction, maritime transport, health and security, but there are other areas where we can do more such as tourism, education and culture.
Mitsotakis said Greece’s priority is the complete return of cooperation in the field of energy, which can be expanded to include renewable energy sources and electrical interconnection projects, where distinct opportunities emerge in public and private investment, but also there is a traditional link between us, which is defence and security.
He revealed that more than 280 Libyan officers have graduated from the Greek Armed Forces colleges and are currently training in the Maritime Deterrence Centre, elements of the Libyan Coast Guard forces, and it is of great geopolitical importance as Libya’s coastguard plays a role in preventing the flow of immigration, so this bilateral cooperation is well rooted and has a future.
Agreements must have legal force (with Turkey)
Mitsotakis said the basis for new relations must be based on frankness and inclination for dialogue, and in particular faith in the principles of international legitimacy, and this means that by writing the new page in relations, the mistakes of the previous relations will be erased.
All foreign forces must leave Libya
He said he would like to be clear of the condition for all foreign forces to leave Libya as Aldabaiba had demanded. He said all European countries will certainly cancel documents that were presented on the basis that they are agreements between countries, but do not possess any legal force, as explicitly stipulated by the European Council.
Mitsotakis highlighted that today is characterized by a strong European character, as after the visit of the President of the European Council and the Prime Ministers of your closest neighbours, Italy and Malta, they made correct agreements for the maritime borders.
Friends of Libya are next to Libya and not far from it. The nearest European spot is Gavdos, and my hometown is the island of Crete, because geography defines the framework of bilateral relations and not the artificial lines that some draw on maps.
He said that the two countries can cooperate together to demarcate the borders between them and to continue dialogue always on the basis of mutual respect for international law and friendly countries always.