Greece restores diplomatic relations with Libya

·2-min read
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visits Libya

ATHENS (Reuters) - Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis reopened Greece's embassy in Libya on Tuesday, urging a reset of relations soured by the Tripoli government's 2019 maritime boundary agreement with Greece's Mediterranean rival Turkey.

Libya's unity government took office on March 16, succeeding two warring administrations that had ruled eastern and western regions over a decade of violent chaos since the overthrow of autocratic leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Mitsotakis' visit, to restart diplomatic relations seven years after the embassy closure due to Libya's civil war, offered a chance for a new start following the disputed accord in 2019 between Turkey and the then-western Libyan government.

"It's time to leave behind what has tested our relations in the past," Mitsotakis said in televised remarks alongside Libya's interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh. Mitsotakis reiterated a European Union call for the "immediate and complete withdrawal" of foreign fighters from Libya.

Libya, a staging point for tens of thousands of illegal immigrants into Europe, has been drawn into a complex diplomatic and territorial stand-off in the eastern Mediterranean that saw Greece and Turkey come close to fighting last year.

The 2019 accord, which prompted Athens to expel the Libyan ambassador at the time, mapped out a sea boundary between Turkey and Libya close to the Greek island of Crete.

Mitsotakis said the agreement had no legal force and should be cancelled, adding: "It is geography that determines the framework of our bilateral relations, and not artificial lines that somebody draws on maps."

In 2020, Greece and Egypt signed an agreement designating an exclusive economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean, which Turkey has said infringes its own continental shelf, and which overlaps with the maritime zones it agreed with Libya.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias is due to visit Ankara next week for talks.

(Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas; Editing by Mark Heinrich)