Libya’s “national unity” government, headed by Abdel Hamid Dbeibeh, established a new maritime zone, which analysts considered a page of a new chapter in the intense race over energy sources in the East Med basin.
The demarcation of maritime borders constitutes a point of fundamental regional disagreement with Türkiye on the one hand and Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt on the other.
Signs of the disagreement appeared since the signing of a maritime border agreement between the Tripoli government and Türkiye in 2019.
Observers believe this path will continue, especially after the unity government announced it would establish a maritime zone adjacent to its borders in the Mediterranean.
The new Libyan decision expands the authority of maritime borders from 12 to 24 nautical miles.
The Foreign Ministry of the Dbebeih government justified this by saying the region falls within Libya’s sovereign rights over the area adjacent to its territorial waters and does not violate international law or infringe on the maritime borders of other countries.
The head of the Land and Maritime Boundaries Committee at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed al-Harari, asserted that the new law confirms Tunisia’s eastern marine border.
He explained that the map attached to the draft law supports his country’s position against Egypt’s decision (595) to define its western maritime borders in the Mediterranean Sea.
Harari denied to Asharq Al-Awsat that there was any influence of this region on neighboring countries and opposing countries in any way.
The declared maritime zone along the coast, known as the contiguous zone, will be at most 24 nautical miles from the baselines from which the width of the territorial sea is measured.
Harari stated that Article 33 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982 gives the concerned state the right to declare this contiguous zone, stressing that there is no problem since these borders do not affect other countries.
However, international law professor Mohammad al-Zubaidi expected the Libyan draft resolution to fuel an influence struggle in the East Med basin.
Zubaidi told Asharq Al-Awsat that Türkiye insists on implementing the agreement and activating it in Libyan domestic legislation so that they have the legal justification to complete border arrangements in the Mediterranean basin.
According to some analysts, the Libyan project is an advanced step in activating the memorandum of understanding signed with Türkiye, which Egypt and Greece rejected.
Zubaidi describes the Dbeibeh government’s talk about the maritime region as a natural extension of the 2019 deal with Türkiye, which changed the balance of power in Tripoli after the Turkish military supported Sarraj’s forces.
He questioned the legitimacy of this step, saying that the draft decision to establish a new maritime zone violates the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.
Libya did not join the convention, but Harari said that the demarcation of borders in the area adjacent to Libya’s territorial waters comes under prevailing norms of international law.
The demarcation of the Libyan borders in the East Med expands the controversy over the conflict over energy sources in the region.
According to the US Geological Survey, the East Med basin is estimated to contain 3,455 billion cubic meters of natural gas worth $700 billion and 1.7 billion barrels of oil.
Political analyst and professor at the University of Derna Youssef al-Farsi told Asharq Al-Awsat that Libya could enter the global energy market, develop its production, and extend new economic corridors.
Farsi highlighted that the maritime region of Sirte up to the border with Egypt is located within the Libyan border and full of enormous oil and gas discoveries.
He ruled out any harm to Egypt and neighboring countries, as “the border demarcation project falls under the scope of acts of sovereign right, not sovereignty.
World Bank estimates Libya’s crude oil production reached 1.2 million barrels per day.
Oil Minister in the Dbeibeh government, Mohamed Aoun, expected production to rise to two million barrels per day within a period ranging from three to five years.