Turkey protests against the “unauthorized action, which was used by force,” as Germany says everything went according to protocol.
Turkey has summoned the envoys of the European Union, Germany and Italy to Ankara to protest against a German attempt to search a merchant ship flying the Turkish flag bound for Libya, according to the Foreign Ministry.
The move comes on Monday hours after Ankara accused the German navy of conducting an “unauthorized” search of the Roseline A cargo ship.
It said Sunday’s action in the southwest of the Greek Peloponnese peninsula violated international law as permission to search the vessel in international waters was not granted.
The European Union’s Operation Irene, tasked with enforcing the UN arms embargo on war-torn Libya, made no immediate comment, but the German Ministry of Defense said it had requested permission, adding that after four hours had passed without a response, it was standard practice. To believe there is an implicit permission.
The German Defense Ministry said that soldiers from the frigate Hamburg had boarded the ship but had to give up checks and withdraw after Turkey protested to the European Union mission that ordered the inspection.
Turkey said the ship was carrying humanitarian aid and the soldiers did not find anything suspicious. German authorities also said they had not found anything suspicious by the time they were ordered off the ship.
“Everything went exactly according to protocol,” a German foreign ministry spokeswoman said.
Footage filmed by the ship’s crew – and repeatedly broadcast by Turkish media – showed a quarrel between crew members and armed German soldiers who landed on the ship in a helicopter.
Turkish media reports said that the soldiers remained on the ship until the early hours of Monday, and found only biscuits and other humanitarian aid destined for the Libyan port of Misrata.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said it was protesting “this unauthorized act, which was used by force.”
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hami Aksoy, said: “The captain showed cooperation and exchange of information about the ship’s shipment and course. Despite this, at 17:45, the armed forces stepped up from Operation Irini to the ship and carried out“ surveillance ”that lasted for hours.
“We are protesting against this act that was done by force and without permission (and) we reserve the right to demand compensation,” he said.
The incident came amid escalating tensions between Turkey and the European Union. The foreign policy official in the bloc warned that relations had reached a “watershed moment” regarding exploration for Turkish oil in waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus, saying that sanctions could be imposed next month.
Turkey, which supports the internationally recognized Libyan Government of National Accord in Tripoli, sees Operation Irene as biased.
Ankara believes that the bloc is ignoring the shipments sent to the forces loyal to the dissident Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar, whom the UAE, Egypt and Russia have supported in the conflict.
Libya has seen nearly a decade of fighting since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted and killed long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi.
But there were signs of progress, as last month’s ceasefire formally ended the fighting between Haftar’s forces and the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord.
European Union forces involved in efforts to end the conflict in Libya issued a joint statement on Monday threatening to impose sanctions on “all Libyan and international parties” that harm the peace process in the conflict-torn country.
Their statement said they were “prepared to take action against those who obstruct” the process, steal state funds or commit human rights violations.
Operation Irini’s official website says it reserves the right to board ships without permission in so-called “friendly methods”.
In June, a French frigate under NATO command sought to search a cargo ship flying the Tanzanian flag suspected of smuggling weapons to Libya in violation of a UN embargo.
After that, Paris complained that one of its ships had been targeted by a radar by Turkish frigates while trying to search the cargo.
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