Following a controversial search of a Turkish-flagged ship carrying humanitarian aid to Libya, the EU operation that carried out the search admitted Monday it had no permission from Turkey to do so.
On Sunday, a German frigate under Operation Irini boarded and inspected the Turkish-flagged merchant cargo vessel Roseline A as part of efforts to enforce the UN Security Council arms embargo on Libya, said a statement from the operation command center.
Claiming the operation had made “good faith efforts” to get consent from Turkey in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions, it added: “Having received no answer from the flag State, the team of the German Frigate Hamburg boarded the vessel in international waters, approximately 160 nautical miles north of the port of Benghazi.
“The Master of the ship and its crew assumed a cooperative attitude towards the boarding team.”
“When the flag State made it clear that it denied the permission to inspect the vessel, Operation IRINI suspended the activities during which no evidence of illicit material was found on board and the vessel was cleared to pursue its route.”
The statement also said this was the operation’s fifth boarding since it began and it was done as part of its mandate.
Turkey has said Sunday’s action was done illegally, adding that the while the ship was not violating the arms embargo, the embargo has been carried out improperly to favor Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar.
Backlash from Turkey
Turkey on Monday decried the boarding and search by the EU 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.
"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.
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, calling the double standards and unlawful approach towards ships going from Turkey to Libya unacceptable.
The ministry also summoned the ambassadors of the EU and Italy and the German charge d'affaires to protest the incident.
Libya has been torn by a civil war since the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
A new government was founded in 2015 under an 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./aa