Turkey-Libya Agreement Shakes Up Eastern Mediterranean

In exchange, Turkey signed two agreements with Tripoli in November 2019: a Memorandum of Understanding on the supply of arms, training and military personnel to the UN-backed Government of National Unity (GNA) in Tripoli; and a maritime agreement delineating the exclusive economic zones (ELAs) in the Mediterranean waters that separate the two countries.2 Energy issues have also been at the heart of efforts to normalize relations between Turkey and Israel. After Israel apologized for the Mavi Marmara raid and agreed to pay compensation to the families of those killed in March 2013, the two countries tried to find common ground. After three years of negotiations in June 2016, Turkey and Israel signed a reconciliation agreement and cooperation on natural gas transmission was part of the official negotiations in October 2016. The Israeli foreign minister travelled to Turkey, the first official visit since 2010, to meet with then-Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak. The cheapest route to transport Israeli gas was lebanon and Syria to Turkey, but it was not politically viable. The alternative was to cross the territorial waters of Cyprus, which was a deal-breaker and would involve including the Cyprus conflict in the equation. In any event, the two parties were unable to agree on economic conditions and therefore no agreement was reached. Turkey has long had disputes over maritime borders with its neighbors and the origins of the current crisis date back to the early 2000s, when the Republic of Cyprus began laying the groundwork for offshore gas exploration. Ankara expressed concern about the steps taken by the Greek Cypriots with regard to the delimitation of maritime zones, which Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots claimed would undermine the resolution of the wider Cypriot dispute. Despite these objections, the Republic of Cyprus signed a delimitation agreement with Egypt in 2003, just three months after the publication of a comprehensive peace plan by kofi Annan, then Secretary-General of the United Nations. The Annan plan was put to a referendum in April 2004, but was eventually rejected by the Greek Cypriots and the Republic of Cyprus became a member of the EU the following month. Ankara argued that the delimitation agreement does not take into account the rights of the Turkish Cypriots or Turkey itself, which should have a comprehensive exclusive economic zone (EEZ) extending from its continental shelf. One of the results of these discoveries was the launch of cooperation between the Republic of Cyprus, Greece and Israel, which initially focused on the common challenge of getting gas from the Eastern Mediterranean to market, but then extending to diplomatic and military relations.

Since production from the new fields is expected to exceed domestic demand, both Israel and the Republic of Cyprus have intensified their efforts to find ways to export their gas abroad for sale. In doing so, they decided not to cooperate with Turkey and connect to their existing pipeline network, as had been discussed in the past, but instead began to consider the construction of a new gas pipeline that would cross Crete to reach Italy. With the subsequent accession of Greece, these countries have strengthened their cooperation and extended it beyond the energy sector. From Ankara`s point of view, this was another attempt to prevent it from leaving the Eastern Mediterranean. .