Bartolo in Spain, distances himself from French position on Eastern Mediterranean

Spain and Malta have distanced themselves from France’s pro-Greek position in the dispute with Turkey

Evarist Bartolo (centre) in conversation with Spanish counterpart Arancha Gonzalez Laya (right)
Evarist Bartolo (centre) in conversation with Spanish counterpart Arancha Gonzalez Laya (right)

Spain and Malta have distanced themselves from France’s pro-Greek position as the EU draws diplomatic battle-lines on tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean between Turkey and a host of countries.

The two countries’ foreign ministers said they are neutral parties that are working to facilitate dialogue between the feuding countries.

“We have to help the countries resolve the conflict, not tell them what to do,” said foreign minister Evarist Bartolo said in Oviedo.

“History doesn’t help, and geography even less so. It’s difficult to find consensus, but the alternative is much worse,” he said. “A military conflict would only serve to postpone a resolution.”

Bartolo once again dispelled rumours that Turkey was going to set up an air or military base in Malta, reaffirming the country’s commitment to neutrality.

The growing dispute between Greece and Turkey over energy exploration in the Mediterranean was one of the main topics of discussion during the meeting,

“We are both trying to boost sincere dialogue and negotiation between Greece and Turkey,” said Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya, who said Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez had spoken Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan twice so far this week.

Maltese MEPs on Thursday supported a resolution condemning Turkish exploration actions inside the Greek and Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone, passed by 601 votes to 57.

The ongoing dispute and related risk of further military escalation between EU member states and an EU candidate country, is the subject of unclear alliances inside and outside the EU.

Malta has fostered dialogue with Turkey as the main military ally of the UN-recognised GNA in Libya. The Turkish military effort in Libya has repelled incursions by Khalifa Haftar’s LNA, which is backed by Egypt, the UAE, but also France.

Concurrently, the extension of the Libyan exclusive economic zone to Turkey has angered Greece and Cyprus.

France has backed an EU naval operation, Irini, which seeks to enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya by effectively policing a Turkish sea route to the GNA’s ports, but not Haftar’s supplies from the Egyptian land border.

Malta has responded by withdrawing from Irini.

MEPs have called on Turkey to immediately end any illegal exploration and drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, to refrain from violating Greek airspace and Greek and Cypriot territorial waters and stop “nationalistic warmongering rhetoric”

MEPs called for both Turkey and the member states to support the political dialogue in Libya and to adhere to the arms embargo imposed by the UNSC.

More in World