BREAKING NEWS
This content is not available in your region

Greece wants to be part of a solution in Libya

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
Text size Aa Aa

Greece wants to be included in UN-sponsored talks in January on the Libya conflict, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Sunday, as tensions escalate with neighbours Turkey over the issue.

Libya has become another diplomatic front for Greece and Turkey as the traditional rivals jostle over Mediterranean maritime rights and the competing camps in the North African country's conflict.

"We do not want a source of instability in our neighbourhood. Therefore we want a say in developments in Libya," Mitsotakis told To Vima weekly in an interview.

"We want to be part of the solution in Libya, as it concerns us too," he said.

The UN has said an international conference will be held next month in Berlin to pave the way for a political solution to Libya's ongoing conflict.

Libya has been beset by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, with rival administrations in the east and the west vying for power.

"I have requested, and will do so again with greater insistence, that we participate in the Berlin process," Mitsotakis said.

Greece calls maritime deal between Turkey and Libya 'baseless'

In November, Ankara signed a contentious maritime and military deal with the embattled UN-recognised government in Tripoli.

Greece immediately rejected it as baseless, arguing that Turkey and Libya share no maritime border.

"[Libya] is our natural maritime neighbour, not Turkey's," Mitsotakis said on Sunday.

The Turkish deal lays claim to much of the Mediterranean for energy exploration, conflicting with rival claims by Greece and Cyprus.

At the same time, Turkey is stepping up military aid to Tripoli, which is battling the forces of military strongman Khalifa Haftar for control of the capital.

Mitsotakis on Sunday also addressed recent statements by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that called into question sovereignty treaties with Greece.

READ MORE: Turkish parliament to vote on sending troops to Libya

Mitsotakis not the only critic

Italy's prime minister Giuseppe Conte has warned that Russia and Turkey, and not Europe, are setting the agenda in their involvement in Libya's conflict.

In his end of year news conference Conte said Russia and Turkey were only pursuing a military and not a political solution in the North African state.

"We must be united, we cannot allow actors even much more distant from Libya, to position themselves, settle their role in the Libyan scenario and claim the primacy for any solutions," he said. "Solutions which, moreover, are only military," he added.

READ MORE: Italy PM Giuseppe Conte warns of Russian and Turkish involvement in Libya

Greece and Turkey don't see eye to eye

Turkey maintains that several islands and islets near its coasts that are claimed by Greece under longstanding postwar treaties are actually 'grey zones'.

“No one should try to blockade us, to trap us in our own coasts or trample on our economic rights,” Erdogan said last week.

Mitsotakis on Sunday said: "If we cannot work things out, then we should agree to settle the one case that is acknowledged by Greece at an international judicial body, such as the International Court (of Justice) at the Hague."

"I am referring to the continental shelf and maritime zones in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean," he added.