Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement late on Monday that the German Hamburg frigate’s interception and search of the Roseline A freighter in the waters southwest of Greece’s Peloponnese Peninsula and north of the Libyan city of Benghazi violated international law as no permission had been granted to search the vessel in international waters.
“The countries in question have been sent a diplomatic note. In the note, it was emphasized that the incident was against international law and that our rights for compensation are reserved,” he said.
Aksoy added that the Turkish vessel’s captain cooperated with the EU’s Operation Irini forces, who are tasked with enforcing a United Nations arms embargo on strife-torn Libya, and shared extensive information about the vessel’s cargo and navigation but faced hours-long inspection instead.
“All the staff was detained and the captain was held at gunpoint by soldiers during the inspection,” Aksoy said.
He said that the search was conducted without the approval of the vessel’s country of origin, and that the intervention only ended after Turkey’s insistent objection to the unlawful search.
Aksoy also said the European mission has adopted a double standard against Libya’s internationally-recognized and Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and specifically targets commercial vessels heading to Libya from Turkey.
Turkish media outlets repeatedly aired footage filmed on Sunday by the merchant ship’s crew, which shows a quarrel between crew members and armed German soldiers, who landed on the ship aboard a helicopter.
The soldiers stayed on board into the early hours of Monday, finding only biscuits and other humanitarian aid headed to the Libyan port of Misrata, the reports said.
The German Defense Ministry said soldiers from the Hamburg frigate had boarded the Turkish-flagged vessel, but had to abandon checks and withdraw after Ankara protested to the EU mission.
“Everything went exactly according to protocol,” a German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman also said.
Ankara believes the EU turns a blind eye on arms shipments sent to rebel forces loyal to Libya’s renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, who is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan in a conflict against the internationally-recognized government in Tripoli.
Libya first plunged into chaos in 2011, when a popular uprising backed by a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Two rival seats of power have emerged in the oil-rich country since 2014, namely the GNA run by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, and the parliament based in the eastern city of Tobruk, supported militarily by Haftar’s rebels.
Libyan rebels launched an unsuccessful military offensive to seize the capital, Tripoli, and unseat the government in April 2019. The Libyan military has undone many of the rebels’ gains.
The incident came as tensions are rising between the EU and Turkey over the latter’s drilling activities for oil and gas in the Eastern Mediterranean waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus.