The German defense minister rebuked Ankara after it summoned envoys from Germany, Italy and the EU in protest at the attempted search of a Turkish cargo ship suspected of illegally supplying Libya with weapons.
Ankara sent notes to ambassadors on Monday claiming that international law had been breached after the Turkish vessel was boarded by soldiers enforcing the UN arms embargo against Libya.
“The soldiers behaved correctly and acted absolutely in line with the mandate of the European mission Irini,” Germany’s Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Tuesday. “The accusations that are being raised against the soldiers are unjustified.”
The EU launched Operation Irini this year, in a bid to uphold the UN arms embargo against Libya, with the mission permitted to carry out inspections of vessels off the coast of the North-African country.
Germany’s Hamburg frigate intercepted the 16,000-tonne Turkish freighter on Sunday night, around 200km (125 miles) north of the Libyan city of Benghazi.
Footage posted to social media appeared to show German servicemen boarding the ship from a helicopter and then conducting inspections. However, the search could not be completed amid strong protests from Turkey.
#Germany frigate tried to inspect a Turkish cargo (Rosaline A) bound for #Libya as part of the IRINI mission yesterday. After the Turkish government objected to boarding, inspection was aborted & team returned to their ship. 📹 pic.twitter.com/KKOy1xAXZf
— Mete Sohtaoğlu (@metesohtaoglu) November 23, 2020
Orders to intercept the Turkish vessel had reportedly come from the Irini Operation Center in Rome after a suspected violation of the arms embargo was detected.
The German defense ministry later said they had not “found anything suspicious,” adding that the correct procedures were upheld during the search.
On Tuesday Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu issued an apparent reply to the German defense minister’s comments.
“Being the country with the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, it is not possible for us to accept Turkey to be confined to its own shores,” he said.
The attempted search was also “strongly condemned” on Tuesday by Turkey’s main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, of the Republican People’s Party.
Earlier Turkey had labeled the search attempt an “unauthorized and forceful act” and said that the crew had been “treated like criminals.”
A Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said that the ship had been transporting paint and foreign aid, and vowed that Turkey could claim “all kinds of compensation” from the EU.
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