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EU weighs response to Turkey-Libya maritime border deal

FILE - In this Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018 file photo Mohamed Younis A.B. Menfi Ambassador of Libya in Greece attends a ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Athens. Greece's foreign minister says on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, his country is expelling the Libyan ambassador in the latest escalation of a dispute over a controversial deal between Libya's UN-supported government and Turkey on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean. (John Liakos/InTime News via AP, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018 file photo Mohamed Younis A.B. Menfi Ambassador of Libya in Greece attends a ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Athens. Greece's foreign minister says on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, his country is expelling the Libyan ambassador in the latest escalation of a dispute over a controversial deal between Libya's UN-supported government and Turkey on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean. (John Liakos/InTime News via AP, File)

BRUSSELS – European Union foreign ministers debated Monday how to respond to a controversial agreement between Turkey and Libya that could give Turkey access to a contested economic zone across the Mediterranean Sea.

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

Before chairing the meeting, new EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that “it’s not a matter of sanctions today.” He said the ministers would study a “memorandum of understanding” agreed upon between Turkey and Libya, which was only made public in recent days.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said “it’s a little bit astounding how they split up the Mediterranean among themselves. We’ll have to see how we deal with it.”

Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt, which lie between Turkey and Libya geographically, have blasted the accord as being contrary to international law. Some EU partners of Greece and Cyprus seem to agree.

“The Netherlands is always a staunch supporter of the rule of international law, and we side with Greece," said Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok. "International law should be upheld.”

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