Libya escalation puts Athens on high diplomatic alert
Athens on Friday remained on increased diplomatic alert following recent developments in Libya where Turkey appears to be consolidating its presence and taking on a kingmaker role after halting Khalifa Haftar’s forces which are waging a battle in the west of the country against the Tripoli-based government.
Turkey’s moves have in turn sparked a strong reaction from Russia, which has strengthened its presence in the eastern coastal region of Cyrenaica.
In Athens, senior government officials are reportedly skeptical about a view being aired within NATO circles that Turkey’s increased presence in Libya could serve to offset Russia’s influence in the region.
The latest developments were discussed in a phone call late Thursday between Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and Libya’s Parliament speaker in the east, Aguila Saleh.
According to diplomatic sources, the two men discussed the need for a peaceful solution to the crisis and stressed the importance of appointing a new special envoy of the United Nations secretary-general as soon as possible. They also reiterated that the arms embargo must be adhered to and denounced the maritime border deal between Turkey and the Tripoli-based government as invalid and a source of instability.
Sources also said that Saleh analyzed his eight-point proposal, which includes, among other things, the establishment of a new Presidential Council to represent the three provinces of Libya, as well as the appointment of a committee of experts to draft the country’s new constitution.
Dendias had earlier talked with US Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland at Washington’s request.
Meanwhile on Friday, Athens lodged a demarche with Ankara over its challenge to Greek sovereignty in an area in the southern part of the Evros River where special forces of the Turkish police have been deployed in recent weeks. The area was placed in dispute after a change in the riverbed caused by recent flooding.
At the same time, Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said Friday that Turkey’s “dangerous maneuvers” in the Aegean are not conducive to good-neighborly relations and “increase the risk of an accident.” He added that Turkey’s behavior has been raised with NATO.