Turkey has summoned envoys to Ankara from the European Union, Germany and Italy to protest Germany’s attempts to locate a Turkish-flagged commercial vessel bound for Libya, according to the foreign ministry.
Monday’s action comes hours after Ankara accused the German navy of carrying out an “unauthorized” search on the freighter Roseline A.
It said the actions on Sunday southwest of Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula violated international law because no permission was granted to search ships in international waters.
The EU’s Operation Irini, tasked with enforcing a United Nations arms embargo on war-torn Libya, did not immediately issue comment but Germany’s defense ministry said it had requested permission, adding that, after four hours had passed without a response, it was standard practice. to believe that there is an implicit permission.
Soldiers from the Hamburg frigate had boarded the ship but had to leave checks and withdraw after Turkey protested against the EU mission, which had ordered a search, the German defense ministry said.
Turkey says the ship was carrying humanitarian aid and the army did not find anything suspicious. German authorities also said they found nothing suspicious when they were ordered to get off the ship.
“Everything is going according to protocol,” said a spokesman for the German foreign ministry.
Footage recorded by the crew of the ship – and repeatedly shown in Turkish media – shows a fight between crew members and German armed soldiers landing on the ship by helicopter.
The soldiers remained on the ship until the early hours of Monday, finding only biscuits and other humanitarian aid bound for the Libyan port of Misrata, Turkish media reports said.
Turkey’s foreign ministry said it was protesting “this illegitimate act, which was carried out using force”.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said: “The captain demonstrated cooperation and shared information on shipments and routes. Even so, at 5:45 p.m., TNI from Operation Irini boarded the ship and carried out a lengthy ‘monitoring’.
“We are protesting against this act, which was carried out forcibly and without permission (and) defending the right to seek compensation,” he said.
The incident comes amid rising tensions between Turkey and the EU. The bloc’s foreign policy chief has warned that relations are reaching a “pivotal moment” over the prospect of Turkish oil in waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus, saying sanctions could be imposed next month.
Turkey, which supports Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, views Operation Irini as biased.
Ankara believes the bloc is ignoring dispatches sent to troops loyal to Libyan rebel military commander Khalifa Haftar, who has been supported in the conflict by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia.
Libya has endured nearly a decade of fighting since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime leader Moammar Gaddafi.
But there are signs of progress, with a ceasefire last month officially ending fighting between Haftar’s forces and the Tripoli-based GNA.
EU powers involved in efforts to end the conflict in Libya issued a joint statement on Monday threatening sanctions against “all Libyan and international parties” that jeopardize the peace process of the strife-torn country.
Their statement said they were “ready to take action against those who obstruct” proceedings, rob state funds or commit rights violations.
Operation Irini’s official website said it had the right to board the ship without permission for the so-called “friendly approach”.
In June, a French frigate under NATO command attempted to inspect a Tanzanian-flagged cargo ship suspected of smuggling weapons into Libya in violation of a UN embargo.
Paris later complained that one of its ships was subjected to a radar target that was targeted by a Turkish frigate while trying to inspect the cargo.