Turkey has summoned the EU’s envoy, Italy’s ambassador, and Germany’s charge d'affaires over an attempt to search a Turkish ship in the Mediterranean Sea due to a possible attempt to smuggle weapons into Libya, the Turkish Foreign Ministry announced. Ankara labelled the attempt to search its vessel as a breach of international law.
"We deeply regret that our vessel, which as became apparent has not violated the arms embargo, was withheld from her route for hours under severe weather conditions and that during the inspection the crew were treated as if they were criminals. We protest this unauthorized and forceful act", the ministry's statement said.
Berlin previously condemned Turkey for not allowing its warship the Hamburg, which is part of an EU mission aimed at preventing weapons smuggling operations in the Mediterranean, to fully inspect the Turkish cargo ship M/V Roseline A, which was sailing under the Turkish flag.
Statement of the Spokesperson of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Hami Aksoy, in Response to a Question Regarding the Inspection Under Operation Irini of a Turkish-flagged Commercial Vessel Without Turkey’s Consent https://t.co/Jju5zqUoCH pic.twitter.com/llNO8EFwjS— Turkish MFA (@MFATurkey) November 23, 2020
Ankara insists that the cargo ship was carrying only paint materials and humanitarian aid to the Libyan port of Misrata. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry condemned the actions of the German ship and called the "purpose and benefits" of the EU's Operation IRINI "questionable". In addition, the ministry insisted that even though the operation is being conducted in order to enforce a UN Security Council ban on all weapons shipments to Libya, the UNSC resolution does not give the EU the right to inspect commercial ships without the consent of their flag state.
"The neutrality of Operation Irini, which the EU launched without consulting neither the legitimate Government of Libya, nor Turkey and NATO, is already in dispute. That being the case, this double-standard and unlawful treatment of vessels engaged in transportation from Turkey to Libya can never be accepted", Turkey's statement said.
In June 2020, France and Turkey also clashed over Ankara's forces preventing a French Navy vessel from conducting an inspection of a Libya-bound Turkish ship. Paris accused Ankara of engaging in "aggressive" actions and of alleged violations of the UN embargo on weapons shipments to Libya’s warring parties.
The embargo was introduced as a means to end the nearly decade-long domestic conflict in Libya, as it remains divided between several armed factions. The biggest of them are the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) with its capital in Tripoli and the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, which is represented by the Libyan National Army. While the UN has urged all countries to stay away from the conflict, Turkey has pledged to provide assistance to the GNA, which it sees as the only legitimate government.