Conference: “Geopolitical and Legal Aspects Shaping the Debates on Energy Basins in the Eastern Mediterranean”

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On February 19, 2020 a conference was organized by ILI-Istanbul at Hergüner Bilgen Özeke Attorney Partnership on the “Geopolitical and Legal Aspects Shaping the Debates on Energy Basins in the Eastern Mediterranean”.

The program evaluated the geopolitical and legal aspects that shape the debates on energy basins in the Eastern Mediterranean. Moderator and panelist included: Ümit Hergüner (ILI USA Board Member and Senior Partner of Hergüner Bilgen Özeke Attorney Partnership) as moderator; and panelists: Kayra Üçer (President of ILI İstanbul and Managing Partner of Hergüner Bilgen Özeke Attorney Partnership); Dr. Cihangir Akşit (Veteran Major General); Bilge Cankorel (Retired Ambassador); Sedat Ergin (Columnist at Hürriyet Journal); Dr. Dolunay Özbek (İstanbul Bilgi University Law Faculty, International Law Faculty Member); Mithat Rende (Retired Ambassador, Turkish Industrial Development Bank Board Member); Deniz Tuncel (Partner at Hergüner Bilgen Özeke Attorney Partnership).

Discussions throughout the conference yielded many political, legal, and economic outcomes. Perhaps the most notable topic was the Memorandum of Understanding (“MoU”) signed by Turkey and Libya on maritime delimitation and the declaration of an exclusive economic zone (“EEZ”). Several panelists challenged the legal nature of the MoU and questioned whether it constitutes an “international agreement” as enshrined in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (“VCLT”). Professor Özbek explained that pursuant to Article 2(1)(a) of the VCLT, a treaty is defined as an international agreement concluded between States in written form that is governed by international law and whatever its particular designation. In this regard, an MoU, which consists of rights and obligations that are binding on its parties, is an international agreement regardless of its title. Since the MoU between Turkey and Libya defines maritime delimitation and sets forth each party’s rights and obligations, it should be considered an international agreement. Concerning maritime delimitation, the panelists compared Turkey’s position in the Blacksea and the Eastern Mediterranean. They also discussed the probable positive and negative consequences of bilateral delimitation agreements in the Eastern Mediterranean that are used to settle disputes in overlapping areas.

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Another topics of discussion included offshore pipelines. In this regard, a comparison was made between the TurkStream Natural Gas Pipeline, the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum Natural Gas Pipeline, the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (“TANAP”), and the planned natural gas pipeline in the Eastern Mediterranean (“East-Med”). Panelists discussed the feasibility and the positive and negative economic and political outcomes of East-Med. Some panelists shared their views on the possibility of connecting East-Med to TANAP or to the Turkish Transmission Network and transferring the gas this way. Moreover, the panelists explained the current positions of the states involved in the East-Med pipeline, particularly with regard to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ willingness to negotiate and cooperate and the Greek side’s unwillingness to cooperate.

Over 40 participants attended.