Fresh dispute brewing with Italy on oil exploration rights
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Fresh dispute brewing with Italy on oil exploration rights

Italy is drafting legislation that will establish territorial rights over possible offshore oil and gas deposits in areas of the Ionian Sea also claimed by Malta.

The Financial Times reports that the Italian Ministry for Economic Development says Italy is preparing to delineate Italy's exclusive economic zone over an area of the Ionian Sea, southeast of Sicily and issue tenders for oil exploration.

Italy recently issued a diplomatic "demarche" through its ambassador to Malta  in protest against Malta's publication in August of a tender for oil exploration covering areas of the continental shelf in the Ionian Sea claimed by Italy, the FT said.

Italy said Malta's move violated the "spirit and letter" of the 1982 UN convention on the law of the sea which committed all states to reach "equitable solutions" in delimiting their zones.

Malta has similar disputes with Tunisia and Libya.

The dispute with Libya reached boiling point in the early 1980s when Libya sent a gunboat to stop an Italian oil rig exploring the Medina Bank for Malta. The delineation of that area was later decided by the International Court of Justice, but many other areas remain in dispute.

According to reports over the past months, the possibility of join exploration had been under discussion with the Tunisian and Libyan authorities.

Earlier this year, Malta wrote a formal letter of complaint to Italy after the Italian government offered oil exploration licences around the islands of Pantelleria, Linosa and Lampedusa.

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