Joint statement from foreign ministers denounces Turkey for East Med drilling

The foreign ministers of  Egypt, France, Greece and the United Arab Emirates and Cyprus issued a joint declaration on Monday, denouncing what they called Turkey’s illegal activities in the eastern Mediterranean.

The ministers also condemned the escalation of Turkey’s violations of the Greek national airspace and the "instrumentalization of civilians by Turkey in an attempt to illegally cross Greek land borders.’’

Turkey must fully "respect the sovereignty and the sovereign rights of all States in their maritime zones in the Eastern Mediterranean,’’ the joint declaration said, referring to an agreement signed in November between Ankara and Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) government to redefine Turkey’s maritime borders.

The agreement signed on November 27 by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the head of Libya’s U.N-recognised Government of National Accord, Fayez Al Sarraj, ignores territorial waters around the divided island of Cyprus and a number of Greek islands, including Crete.

Relations between Turkey and Greece have been tense throughout 2019, as Turkey stepped up efforts to exploit the hydrocarbon reserves in the east Mediterranean by sending two drillships to the waters off the divided island of Cyprus.

Tensions intensified this year following an announcement by Ankara in late February that it would no longer prevent migrants trying to reach Europe, causing thousands of migrants to amass at the country’s northwestern border with Greece. 

Ankara and Athens also disagree on maritime territories and continental shelf zones in the Aegean. 

The joint statement also condemned Turkey’s military interference in Libya, urging Turkey "to fully respect the U.N. arms embargo, and to stop the influx of foreign fighters from Syria to Libya.’’ 

Libya has been divided since 2014 between warring factions. The Libyan National Army (LNA), led by General Khalifa Haftar, last year launched a military campaign with support from Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to topple the Turkish backed GNA.

Ankara is accused of shipping thousands of Syrian mercenaries to Libya.