UPDATES WITH TURKISH VICE PRESIDENT’S REMARKS, ORIGINAL FOREIGN MINISTRY QUOTES
By Sena Guler and Merve Aydogan
ANKARA (AA) - Turkey on Monday decried the illegal search of a Turkish-flagged ship carrying humanitarian supplies to Libya, a search carried out by a German frigate serving under a Greek-commanded EU naval mission.
"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," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy, denying that the ship has violated the UN arms embargo on Libya.
Aksoy stressed that Turkey protests the move, saying it was an "unauthorized and forceful act."
He said the incident might incur a demand for compensation for damages or losses, adding: "It is essential to obtain flag state consent before interfering with commercial ships in international waters. UN Security Council resolutions on the Libyan arms embargo do not overrule this obligation."
The MV Roselina A cargo vessel was intercepted by the German ship Hamburg southwest of the Peloponnese islands to search its contents from Sunday evening to early Monday morning, Aksoy said.
The German frigate was involved in Operation Irini, a European mission launched earlier this year to enforce the UN arms embargo on the war-torn North African country of Libya, though it has been accused of bias in favor of warlord Khalifa Haftar and his allies.
Aksoy noted that the Turkish vessel was only carrying paint, paint-related materials, and humanitarian aid to Libya’s port of Misrata, and the captain of the ship cooperated with the frigate and provided detailed information to them.
However, the armed elements of Operation Irini conducted an hours-long search of the vessel, including forcibly searching the captain and crew, he added.
"All crew members, including the shipmaster, were forcibly searched, gathered and confined in a single location, the containers were searched by use of force, while the shipmaster was placed under the custody of an armed serviceman," Aksoy said.
- Turkey never consented
"This intervention was conducted without the consent of either Turkey, as the flag state, or the master of the vessel," said Aksoy, adding that it only came to an end upon persistent objections by Turkey.
"The armed personnel continued to remain on board and left the commercial vessel at 09:38 [0638GMT] in the morning," he said.
Aksoy said that the impartiality of Operation Irini is dubious as it was initiated without negotiations with either the legitimate Libyan government or Turkey or NATO, adding that the double standard and unlawful approach against ships going from Turkey to Libya "can never be accepted."
"As we have stated many times before, Irini is a biased operation. It is an operation that does not inspect arms shipments to putschist Haftar, acting arbitrarily and aimed at punishing the legitimate Government of Libya," he said.
Also criticizing the EU's naval mission, Turkey's Vice President Fuat Oktay said the EU has once again proved its bias with the latest campaign of Operation Irini which it launched without consulting either the legitimate Libyan government or NATO or Turkey.
He called it an operation aiming to punish the legitimate Libyan government, "rather than monitoring the arms supply to putschist Haftar."
On Twitter, Oktay condemned the "unlawful intervention by a German frigate" on a Turkish-flagged ship carrying humanitarian supplies.
Libya has been torn by a civil war since the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
A new government was founded in 2015 under a UN-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political settlement have failed in the face of attacks by the warlord Haftar.
Turkey supports the country's legitimate government based in the capital Tripoli.