Greece Rages Against Turkey’s Heft in Libya Peace Talks

Eleni Chrepa and Paul Tugwell

(Bloomberg) -- Greece warned it may try to block any Libyan peace deal that doesn’t resolve a dispute over regional maritime borders, as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met with military commander Khalifa Haftar ahead of a Berlin conference on the country’s future.

The Greek government, which won’t take part in the Berlin summit, will not accept any political deal for Libya that doesn’t annul an agreement the country struck with Greece’s rival Turkey on maritime borders, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in an interview on Thursday.

“Greece will veto, even at foreign-minister level before it makes it to head-of-state level,” any Libya agreement that doesn’t annul the pact with Turkey, Mitsotakis said.

Greece may not get that chance.

Mitsotakis was left off the invitation list for the peace talks in Berlin this weekend, where German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo will join Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the two leaders who’ve been calling the shots on Libya.

The politicians in Berlin are seeking a deal on foreign intervention after Russia and Turkey failed to persuade Haftar on a visit to Moscow to agree to a ceasefire.

Migrant Trafficking

The battle to secure control over the government has reduced oil-producing Libya to near-failed state status, with the country becoming a center for migrant trafficking across the Mediterranean.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that Turkey plans to issue new exploration licenses in the eastern Mediterranean following the maritime deal with Libya, a step likely to add to tensions with Greece and the European Union. Erdogan, who backs Fayez al-Serraj’s government in Libya, said Friday that Haftar is not reliable.

“We encouraged Commander Haftar to participate in the Berlin process with a positive spirit,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias told reporters after a meeting in Athens. “We expect Germany to safeguard the European position for Libya matters.”

Greece “will do whatever it takes” to protect its sovereignty if Turkey begins hydrocarbon drilling in waters Greece claims as its own, Mitsotakis said, adding that he doesn’t believe the situation in the Aegean will escalate.

Mitsotakis also held a call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday to discuss the issue.

Greece should have been invited to the Berlin summit, Mitsotakis said. “We should be in Berlin to discuss the future of a country whose stability is of interest to Europe, and of particular interest to Greece,” the premier said.

Greece’s participation in the conference had never been considered, German Government Spokesman Steffen Seibert said at a news conference in Berlin on Friday.

Berlin shared Greece’s concerns about the maritime dispute, which was already being dealt with in separate European forums, he added.“This conference doesn’t deal with that issue.”

Separately, the Funke media group reported on Friday that the EU dramatically cut foreign aid to Turkey, citing a letter from Josep Borrell, the High Representative for Foreign Policy, to the European Parliament. As a reason he named the gas dispute in the Mediterranean Sea and Turkey’s offensive in Syria, the group said.

(Updates with Borrell comment in last paragraph)

--With assistance from Sotiris Nikas and Raymond Colitt.

To contact the reporters on this story: Eleni Chrepa in Athens at echrepa@bloomberg.net;Paul Tugwell in Athens at ptugwell1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sotiris Nikas at snikas@bloomberg.net, Jerrold Colten, Caroline Alexander

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