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EU leaders set to reject Turkey-Libya maritime border deal

BRUSSELS – European Union leaders are set to reject a maritime border agreement between Turkey and Libya as invalid and insist that the pact interferes with the rights of other countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, according to a draft summit statement.

The border deal, endorsed by the Turkish parliament last week, has fueled tensions in Ankara’s long-running dispute with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt over oil and gas drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

The three countries, which lie between Turkey and Libya, have blasted the maritime border accord as being contrary to international law. Greece has already expelled the Libyan ambassador over it.

In the statement, the leaders say the Turkey-Libya agreement “infringes upon the sovereign rights of third states, does not comply with the Law of the Sea and cannot produce any legal consequences for third states.”

The text, seen Thursday by The Associated Press and drawn up for a two-day EU summit underway in Brussels, was a draft so its exact wording could change.

The draft document continues that the EU “unequivocally reaffirms its solidarity with Greece and Cyprus regarding these actions by Turkey.” Turkey already angered the EU by drilling for gas in waters off the divided island nation of Cyprus.

Ankara upped the ante in that dispute on Wednesday by confirming that it would use its military forces if necessary to halt any exploratory gas drilling in waters off Cyprus that it claims to be its own.

Neighbors Greece and Turkey are divided by a series of decades-old issues, including territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea. The NATO allies have come to the brink of war three times since the 1970s, including once over drilling rights in the Aegean.

Greece insists the deal with Libya — which has no fully functioning government able to rule across all of its territory — is unenforceable and has stressed that it will protect its sovereign rights. Like its EU partners, Greece recognizes the United Nations endorsed Libyan government based in Tripoli.

The speaker of Libya’s parliament, which is affiliated with the government based in the country's east, is visiting the Greek capital. Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias was to meet with the speaker, Aguila Saleh, in Athens on Thursday.

Asked whether Greece would seek to have sanctions to be imposed on Libya over its border pact with Turkey, a Greek diplomatic official said Athens was examining all options, but did not want to take any action that could harm the Libyan people.

Greece considers the recent developments an escalation the government thinks it did not do anything to provoke, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic issues.

Athens is also seeking more involvement in the international discussions over the situation in Libya, and is keeping its channels of communication with Turkey open, the official said.

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Becatoros reported from Athens.