UAE-Italy ministers discuss Iran, Libya, eastern Mediterranean during Abu Dhabi talks

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Italy’s foreign minister visited the UAE on Monday for high-level bilateral talks on regional developments, including Iran, Libya, and the eastern Mediterranean.

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Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Luigi Di Maio met with UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan for a strategic dialogue in the capital Abu Dhabi, according to Emirati state news agency WAM.

“The two sides exchanged views on the latest developments in the region, notably Libya and Iran,” according to the report.

The two officials also discussed developments in the eastern Mediterranean, where Turkey is currently at odds with Greece, Italy’s fellow European Union member state.

Turkey signed an agreement last year with Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea, which prompted disputes with Greece and Cyprus over energy exploration, among other countries, and has prompted international condemnation.

With the agreement, Turkey claims “the right to manage, regulate and dominate the distribution – if not the actual exploitation – of the vast reserves of liquid natural gas in that part of the Mediterranean,” according to Hussein Ibish, a scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute.

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In September, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was one of seven European leaders to issue a statement urging Turkey to end “unilateral and illegal activities” in the eastern Mediterranean.

Conte, along with the heads of Cyprus, Greece, France, Portugal, Malta, and Spain, warned of potential EU restrictive measures against Turkey.

“We regret that Turkey has not responded to the repeated calls by the European Union to end its unilateral and illegal activities,” the leaders said in a statement.

This week, EU member states extended for another year a sanctions framework against Turkey allowing visa bans and asset freezes against individuals involved in contested gas exploration in the Mediterranean.

Turkey has been negotiating EU membership since 2005, but the EU Commission said last month that “Turkey’s accession negotiations have effectively come to a standstill.”

The Commission expressed “serious concerns” about human rights and the rule of law in Turkey, in its annual report on the country.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry dismissed the report as “biased, far from constructive,” and rejected criticism of its economy, democracy and courts.

- With The Associated Press

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