Libya’s unity government last week suspended its participation in UN brokered talks aimed at finding the last ceasefire agreement after forces loyal to warlord Khalifa Haftar bombarded a key export port in Tripoli.
The attack on February 17 came as representatives of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and Gen Haftar’s Libya National Army were meeting in Geneva, Switzerland for the peace talks.
The GNA saw the attack as a violation of a truce that came into effect in January but the LNA claimed that the attack targeted a vessel carrying weapons from Turkey.
Both the GNA and Turkey have disputed claims that there was a vessel carrying weapons from Turkey.
Nonetheless, the GNA says, Turkey’s presence in Libyan waters of the Mediterranean sea is in line with the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the two nations in November last year.
In a statement, Elmahdi S. Elmajerbi, the Chargé d’ affairs at the Permanent Mission of Libya to the United Nations (UN) clarified that on November 27, 2019, the Government of National Accord of Libya and Turkey signed an MOU on the delimitation of maritime jurisdiction areas in the Mediterranean sea.
“It is among the fundamentally accepted principles of both written and customary international law that a State may exercise its full sovereignty over its maritime territory and its sovereign right to define its continental shelf and exclusive economic zone in accordance with the provisions of international law,” Elmajerbi stated.
“Furthermore, it is a right guaranteed by all international agreements concerned with the regulation of maritime affairs and maritime borders,” he added.
Elmajerbi further argued that in conformity with the provisions of the international laws and Libyan national laws, the GNA is competent enough to enter into agreements with other countries on the demarcation of its territorial sea.
“In so doing, it acted in accordance with national legislation in force that authorizes the executive authorities to conclude and adopt memorandums of understanding with other states. It also acted in accordance with international norms, the principles of public international law, the provisions of the international law of the sea and relevant international instruments,” he said.
Elmajerbi said that the MOU with Turkey was a result of extensive “in-depth negotiations, correspondence and exchanges of visits” which started in 2007.
The negotiations were suspended in 2014 but resumed four years later in 2018.
Libya engaged Turkey after the collapse of the 2004 negotiations with Greece after the two countries disagreed over the ownership of some islands in the sea.
“Greece insisted on defining its maritime jurisdiction vis – à-vis Libya on the basis of extremely small uninhabited islands of no legal significance. Greece insisted on drawing a median line based on those island outcroppings and refused to apply the principle of proportionality that is used internationally in such situations,” Elmajerbi said.
At the collapse of the talks in 2014, Greece reportedly signed concession agreements with its allies in the East Mediterranean Gas Forum to acquire a monopoly on the production, liquefaction, and transport of gas.
“The Government of National Accord completely rejects any interference in its internal affairs. It affirms its full respect for the rights and sovereignty of its neighboring countries, both opposite and adjacent. It also stresses that the memorandum of understanding does not affect the sovereign rights of any of the countries neighboring Libya or bordering on the Mediterranean,” Elmajerbi further stated.