Cyprus criticises Turkey's deals in war-torn Libya

Nicosia (AFP) –


Cyprus on Saturday criticised Turkey's twin strategy of wading deeper into Libya's civil war while also claiming energy-rich maritime territories in the Mediterranean.

Tensions are on the rise between Turkey on the one hand and EU members Greece and Cyprus on the other in a conflict over offshore hydrocarbon resources that has drawn in war-torn Libya.

Turkey in November signed a deal with the UN-recognised Libyan government in Tripoli in which the two parties lay claim to much of the Mediterranean, conflicting with rival claims by Greece and Cyprus.

At the same time, Turkey is stepping up military aid to Tripoli, which is at war with a rival administration in eastern Libya, home to the country's parliament and led by strongman Khalifa Haftar.

The speaker of Libya's parliament, Aguila Saleh, on Saturday visited his Cypriot counterpart Demetris Syllouris.

In a joint statement, they called the Turkey-GNA agreement a violation of international law, labelled Turkey's plan to send troops to Libya unacceptable and charged Ankara was escalating regional tensions, reported the Cyprus News Agency.

Saleh urged Cyprus to withdraw its recognition of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), Saleh's adviser Hamid al-Safi told reporters in Libya's main eastern city Benghazi.

The Libya parliament speaker had argued that the GNA has "lost its legitimacy and wants to sell Libya to foreigners".

The two parliamentary speakers also discussed ways to counter Turkey's two Libya agreements, which Greek Cypriots strongly oppose.

One provides for a direct military intervention by Turkish forces in support of the GNA, a move Ankara says may begin as early as next month.

The other sets a maritime boundary between Libya and Turkey, which has angered Greece and Greek Cypriots as they step up plans to exploit offshore gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.

Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974 when Turkey invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-engineered Greek Cypriot coup seeking to unite the whole island with Greece.

Ankara is the only government to recognise a breakaway state in the north which Turkish Cypriot leaders declared in 1983.

UN-backed talks on reunifying the island as a bizonal, bi-communal federation collapsed in July 2017 and have not resumed, in part because of deep divisions over offshore gas.

The Cyprus government has no diplomatic relations with Turkey, which dismisses it as an exclusively Greek Cypriot administration.