Berlin / Ankara (dpa) – Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has defended control of a Turkish freighter by the Bundeswehr as part of the EU’s mission against arms smuggling to Libya.
“The Bundeswehr soldiers (have) behaved perfectly correctly,” the CDU leader said on Tuesday at a foreign policy forum of the Körber Foundation in Berlin. “They did what was required of them under the” Irini “European mandate.” Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar reiterated on Tuesday that his country considered the action illegal.
The dispute was sparked by a mission of the “Irini” mission to stop arms deliveries to Libya, a country in civil war. When the German frigate “Hamburg” was deployed on Sunday evening, the soldiers boarded a suspected freighter about 200 kilometers north of the Libyan city of Benghazi to check the cargo, according to information from the operational command. A few hours later, however, Turkey, as the state whose flag was flying the vessel, vetoed the search for the container freighter. The German soldiers then had to cancel the mission.
Turkey had protested the control, which Ankara said was carried out “without permission and using force”. Several Turkish dailies spoke about “piracy” on Tuesday. The opposition newspaper “Sözcü” even portrayed Merkel as a pirate.
An EU spokesman confirmed to the German news agency that the head of the EU delegation in Ankara had been summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday evening. He was received by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, along with heads of representations from other EU Member States. The latter then handed over a diplomatic note complaining about the inspection carried out in the context of the EU Operation Irini. The EU ambassador then explained again the procedure for the operation.
An official press statement said there were ample grounds to believe the controlled ship could violate the UN arms embargo on Libya. The German soldiers worked very professionally and inspected the ship according to internationally agreed procedures, including NATO procedures. The EU reminded Turkey of UN Resolution 2292 of 2016 calling on flag states to cooperate in inspecting suspected ships.
UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said the United Nations itself had no knowledge of the incident. Nevertheless, it is of the utmost importance that all Member States respect the arms embargo on Libya.
The EU has begun the operation to contain the arms embargo due to the civil war in Libya since the overthrow of longtime ruler Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2011. Government forces are backed by Turkey, their opponent, General Khalifa Haftar, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Russia.