VALLETTA, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- Malta and Italy have informally agreed to hold over oil drilling activities in a vast Sicily's southeastern offshore area also partly claimed by Malta, according to Time of Malta's report on Sunday.
Italian Ambassador Giovanni de Vito confirmed the existence of this informal agreement.
"What's different now is that there is a change in policy by the Italian government to have in place confidence-building measures on migration with the Maltese government and even with the EU," the ambassador said.
Earlier in 2011, 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.
In October 2011, Italy issued a diplomatic "demarche" 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, it 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.
In 2012 Italy unilaterally doubled its claim on the continental shelf stretching from the southeast Sicily towards Libya. Malta had formally protested as the decision significantly affected its maritime territory claims, particularly on two blocks close to Libya with the highest potential for oil and gas reserves.
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.