On December 7th, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) intercepted and captured a Turkish ship – the “Mabrouka”, sailing under a Jamaican flag.
This was announced by LNA spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Mismari.
According to the statement, the ship was sailing towards the port of Misrata and was supposedly delivering weapons.
al-Mismari said that the commercial cargo ship, Mabrouka, had 17 crew, including nine Turkish nationals, and containers that had not yet been inspected.
“The ship’s crew is made of nine Turks, seven Indians and one Azerbaijani sailor. It is being investigated for its violations of maritime laws and regulations,” Mismari added in a statement.
LNA naval forces stopped it near the eastern port of Derna, he said.
The vessel reportedly entered Libyan territorial waters off of the coast of Ra’s Al Hilal. Turkish officials have yet to comment on the incident.
An anonymous Turkish source told Reuters that the ship was carrying medicine and other medical products from Egypt to Libya, and it was expected to be released soon.
“Patients who urgently need the medicines and blood products on that ship are waiting in Libya. It is clear that there are no weapons or anything else,” the person said. “Such seizures are not right.”
The person added the LNA may have been emboldened by the European Union’s Irini Operation, a military mission enforcing an arms embargo on Libya that irked Ankara when it searched a Turkish vessel last month.
Earlier on December 7th, al-Mismari accused Turkey of continuing to supply arms and fighters to the GNA. The LNA is backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, and loosely by Russia.
A panel of U.N. experts has cited the foreign supporters of both sides as breaching an arms embargo on Libya. It is, however, very evident that the biggest breach of the embargo is being carried out by Turkey.
The GNA and LNA signed a ceasefire deal in October and the United Nations has been pushing a political dialogue aimed at elections next year as a solution to Libya’s long-running conflict. Turkey, of course, isn’t happy at a peaceful outcome, since it wants to forward it’s agenda of exploiting Libya’s EEZ and being allowed to keep its newly-established military at al-Zawiyah and Misrata.
European Union foreign ministers also accused Ankara of failing to help resolve a dispute over natural gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean, but they left any decision on retaliatory sanctions for an EU summit on Thursday.
The 27 ministers, who were tasked to evaluate the grounds for economic sanctions on Turkey, did not go beyond agreeing Turkey had aggravated tensions since October, when EU leaders voiced a threat to impose punitive measures in December.
The EU cites Turkish exploration in contested waters, a decision to re-open part of a town in disputed territory in Cyprus and a row with Germany over a UN arms embargo on Libya as evidence that Turkey is no longer a reliable partner.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- Haftar Forces Attack Turkish Proxies In Southern Libya
- Turkey Plans To Deploy More Syrian Militants In Libya Despite Ongoing Peace Talks