Why Greece is changing its Libyan strategy and what is Turkey's role


After about seven years of "frozen" diplomatic relations between Greece and Libya, our country regains diplomatic representation on Libyan soil.

Why was this specific time was chosen?

As Libya will have an election at the end of the year, coordinated by the new caretaker prime minister who will immediately form an interim government, Greece is reactivating its diplomatic channels.

In particular, after the developments at the UN regarding Libya where it was decided to change the political situation, the Greek Embassy in Tripoli will immediately reopen, as announced by the Greek Foreign Ministry.

At the same time, the necessary procedures for the opening of the Consulate General of Greece in Benghazi will be launched.

Diplomatic sources tell Sputnik Hellas that the Greek side wants to have an active role in the region after the fall of Fayez al-Sarraj (who co-signed the illegal Turkish-Libyan memorandum to steal Greek maritime space).

Greek-Libyan diplomatic relations remained virtually frozen after the fall of Gaddafi and the subsequent suspension of the Greek embassy in Libyan territory.

In the midst of the development of the Libyan civil war, the Greek embassy in Tripoli suspended its operation on July 31, 2014.

Its last diplomatic action, in cooperation with Greek supervisory authorities, was to transfer 186 Greek and foreign citizens (Chinese, Belgians, British), who finally arrived in Piraeus with the Salamis frigate.

Greek-Libyan relations returned to the forefront in late 2019 when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Sarraj signed a memoranda to recognises a common Turkish-Libyan maritime border, bypassing Greek rights and the UN Law of the Sea.

Image result for sarraj erdogan
Fayez al-Sarraj (left) and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (right)

"After Sarraj's departure, Greece wants to show a more active role in the region," said Kostas Yfantis, a professor of International Relations at Panteion University.

"It is worth emphasising that the political relations between Greece and Libya are not good, especially after the signing of the Turkish-Libyan memorandum," he continued.

For his part, Deputy Professor for International Politics at the Democritus University of Thrace, Sotiris Serbos, said that developments regarding the transitional government in Libya, does not change anything regarding the role that Turkey has in Libya.

"Those who make up the transitional presidency have no contact with General Khalifa Haftar or with the president of the elected Libyan parliament in Tobruk, Aguila Saleh Issa (who opposes the Turkish plans)," he said.

"Of course, Turkey is also satisfied with this development," he added.

This is one of the reasons why, according to the professor, Greece decides to make a change in strategy.

"Greece's diplomatic moves are aimed at better capturing our position. There should be a negotiating leverage of developments, within the geopolitical bra de fer that is taking place in Libya with players inside and outside the country," the professor continued.

As he pointed out, it cost Greece that they had no information about developments in Libya since it did not maintain an embassy there.

"So this has to do with the fact that two Turkish-Libyan memoranda were signed for maritime zones and military cooperation, something that Greece did not realize until they were signed," he signed.

This does not mean, as he clarifies, that Greece could have done something to prevent it, however the balances may have been formed differently.

"Our country clearly needs its own unfiltered channel of communication with a country like Libya," the professor concluded.

The new Prime Minister of Libya and Greece

It is recalled that Mohamed Menfi, the new caretaker Prime Minister of Libya, was deported from Greece at the end of 2019, after the signing of the Turkish-Libyan memorandum, while he was the ambassador for Libya in Athens.

Libyan Interim President Mohamed Menfi.
Libyan Interim President Mohamed Menfi (John Liakos/InTime News via AP)

Other diplomatic sources estimate that the new Libyan prime minister will not cause any problems with Greece despite the fact that he was expelled as ambassador as he is "transitional and of limited power to proceed with major changes."

Participants in the dialogue on Libya, under the auspices of the UN, chose him to undertake to lead the country to elections, on December 24.

The caretaker Prime Minister will have to form an interim government in 21 days and present his program to Parliament for approval.

If he succeeds, he will have another 21 days to receive a vote of confidence from parliament.