Athens, Ankara vying for Libya influence

Athens, Ankara vying for Libya influence

As part of Athens’ effort to secure its interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias stressed on Monday that Greece “is back” in Libya during his official visit to the North African country.

The minister met with several officials to assure them of Greek support to the provisional Libyan government. Dendias also brought up the issue of maritime delineation, condemning the maritime borders memorandum signed between Turkey and the previous Libyan government.

“Greece has always believed that the solution of Libya’s problems must come from the immediate departure of all foreign armed forces and foreign mercenaries from Libyan soil,” he stressed. “Greece is back to help as much as it can. With our people, with our identity as a European Union member, and we hope to maintain our friendship with Libya and help Libya move forward and become a prosperous and stable country,” he said.

In his visit to Benghazi Dendias met with Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Hussein Atiya Abdul Hafeez Al-Qatrani and Speaker of the House of Representatives Aguila Saleh, who are among those who want to see an immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from Libya.

Tellingly, the Libyan House of Representatives has not approved the Turkish-Libyan memorandum, which is a serious disadvantage compared to the Greece-Egypt Agreement (approved by governments and parliaments). Also Al-Qatrani expressed his direct opposition to the Turkish-Libyan memoranda Monday. 

The tactics followed by Athens are not unrelated to the developments in Europe. The statement last week by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seen to be linked to the aim of Rome and Paris to fill the void left by Germany in the Med. 

Ahead of elections in Libya on December 24, Athens and Ankara are seeking to secure their respective interests in the North African country as reflected by the flurry of contacts they are making with the transitional government.

After last week’s visit by a Greek delegation led by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to Tripoli, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibeh in Ankara on Monday, ensuring, at least in terms of appearances, that the new transitional government will not jeopardize Turkey’s position in the North African country. 

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