Turkey blames Greek Commander for searching cargo ship suspected of carrying weapons

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Turkey prevented German forces belonging to a European Union military mission from carrying out a full search of a Turkish cargo ship they suspected of taking weapons to Libya, both countries confirmed on Monday.

Soldiers from the frigate Hamburg boarded the Turkish freighter, the Rosaline A, overnight, but had to abandon checks and withdraw after Turkey protested to the EU mission, the German Defense Ministry said.

The frigate was operating in the Mediterranean as part of the EU’s Irini mission, which aims to stop arms reaching the warring factions in Libya.

“By the time the soldiers left the ship, they had not found anything suspicious,” a German defense ministry spokesman said.

Turkish security sources said the Rosalina-A was carrying various materials such as food and paint, and that the search team had violated international law by not waiting for permission from Turkey.

It said the soldiers had found nothing despite spending the entire night opening containers on the ship.

“Following the search that lasted until the early hours of the morning, the soldiers understood that there was nothing on the ship apart from humanitarian aid, foods such as biscuits, and paint materials, and left the ship,” a source said.

Confirming a report in the news magazine Der Spiegel, the German spokesman said the Hamburg had intercepted the Rosaline A about 200 km (125 miles) north of the Libyan city of Benghazi on Sunday night.

He said the Hamburg had followed standard procedure by waiting four hours for approval from the flag country and then boarding. Later, once the objection arrived, they withdrew.

“All procedures were followed correctly,” a German foreign ministry spokeswoman said.

The 16,000-tonne container ship left the Turkish port of Gemlik near Bursa last week, and was last seen off Athens, heading southwest towards Libya, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

Turkey cries foul at German attempt to police Libya blockade:

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Monday summoned the ambassadors of Germany, Italy and the European Union to protest what it calls “the illegal” interception of the Libya-bound Turkish vessel.

Operation Irini, a European Union military operation under the umbrella of the Common Security and Defense Policy, was launched on March 31, 2020 with the aim to enforce the United Nations arms embargo to Libya.

Currently the operation is under the command of a Greek officer. Captain Theodoros Mikropoulos officially assumed the position of Commander at Sea for the second half of 2020. The commander’s ship is the frigate “Adrias,” while his naval staff is comprised of 14 Greek staff officers, among others.

These are all facts which have been highlighted by the Turkish media.

“Provocation by the Greek commander in East Mediterranean,” writes one Turkish media outlet, TRThaber.

“Provocation by the Greek commander in East Mediterranean,” wrote one media outlet, TRThaber, claiming that the “order to the German frigate was given by the Greek Commander of the Irini mission.”

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hami Aksoy, also added his voice to the controversy yesterday, saying: “Operation Irini is a one-sided operation.”

“It is an operation that aims to punish the legitimate Libyan government and does not inspect arms supplies to the putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar, and is involved in arbitrary practices,” Aksoy said.

He also noted that the Turkish vessel’s captain cooperated with Operation Irini forces and shared extensive information about the vessel’s cargo and navigation, but faced a long inspection for hours despite their cooperation.

“All the staff was detained and the captain was held at gunpoint by soldiers during the inspection,” Aksoy said.

“We protest this act, which was carried out by force and without authorisation (and) retain the right to seek compensation.”

Source: Ekathimerini.

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