Mediterranean Relations

Mediterranean Relations

The Mediterranean basin is an area of major importance to Libyan military and political policy. Soon after the revolution, Libya called for the conversion of the Mediterranean Sea into a neutral "sea of peace" through the removal from the area of all foreign naval fleets and military installations, particularly North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bases. Libya repeated the call at the 1973 Algiers conference of the Nonaligned Movement, and other countries, including neighboring Tunisia and Algeria, have supported the idea.

The keystone to Libya's Mediterranean neutralization policy is Malta. During the Anglo-Maltese negotiations in 1972 covering British bases on the island, Libya offered economic assistance to Malta if it would exact a pledge that the bases would not be used again to fly supply missions to Israel (as they had been used during the 1956 Suez Canal crisis and the June 1967 War). The ruling Labour Party government of Maltese Prime Minister Dom Mintoff negotiated such an agreement, and Libyan-Maltese economic relations began to expand. Libya encouraged immigration by Maltese workers, and Malta provided technical training for Libyans.

Libyan-Maltese relations, on the whole, have been cordial. In the 1980s, Libya generally perceived Malta's foreign policy as positive and friendly. Nevertheless, the issue of maritime boundaries between the two countries remained an irritant. It was finally resolved in mid-1985 when the International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled in favor of Libya. As a result of this decision, Malta lost eighteen nautical miles to its southern neighbor.

While pursuing relations with Malta, Libya continued to develop its overall Mediterranean policy. In mid-1975, Libya and Turkey concluded several cooperative agreements and decided to establish a joint ministerial committee. Plans were formulated to increase the number of Turkish workers in Libya from 6,000 to 60,000 by the end of 1976. The wave of expulsions of foreign workers in the fall of 1985, was evidently politically motivated as some 130,000 people--primarily Egyptians, Tunisians, and Mauritanians--were expelled. Some 50,000 Turkish workers remained in Libya, however, alongside 15,000 workers from the Democratic Republic of Korea (South Korea) despite the obvious closeness of those two countries to the West generally and the United States in particular.

Libyan relations with Cyprus and Greece have been largely harmonious. Late in 1973, Libya established diplomatic relations with Cyprus. Archbishop Makarios, then president of Cyprus, visited Libya in June 1975, where he recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian Arabs. In early 1976 and again in mid-1977, Greece and Libya signed economic and technical cooperation pacts. They also agreed to establish a joint ministerial committee.

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