Will Ship Inspection Incident Change German Position Towards Turkey in Libya?

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At a time when European silence towards Turkish violations in Libya continue, the recent incident of the German military inspecting a Turkish ship has broken this silence.

On Sunday, the German frigate ‘Hamburg’ stopped the Turkish cargo ship ‘Rosalina-A’ 200 kilometers north of Benghazi, eastern Libya. This was part of the tasks of the European Union-led naval operation IRINI.

This incident reveals a change in the nature of the EU towards Turkish actions in Libya. It coincided with a joint statement by Germany, Britain, France, and Italy threatening to impose sanctions on those who obstruct negotiations between the Libyan parties.

Mediation efforts are ongoing to establish a transitional government in Libya until elections are held in December 2021.

In a statement published by the French Presidency, the four European nations said that they are ready to take measures against those who obstruct the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) and other tracks of the Berlin process.

They also announced imposing sanctions on those who continue to plunder government funds and commit human rights violations in Libya.

Yesterday, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay strongly condemned the German frigate’s inspection of the Turkish vessel, which he claimed was commercial. He stated that IRINI aimed to punish the legitimate Libyan government, the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

Oktay added that, “IRINI, which was launched by the European Union to monitor the Libyan coast without consulting the legitimate government, NATO, or Turkey, has proven once again that it is biased”.

The German newsite ‘Der Spiegel’ stated on Monday that the mission had reason to believe that the ship was smuggling weapons into Libya. It pointed out that the German soldiers were forced to leave the ship and allow it to continue its way to Misrata, after Turkey refused to authorize the inspection.

The Turkish position reflects its disregard for calls by the international community demanding it stop supporting the war in Libya.

Over the past five years, Turkish support for the GNA has increased, with weapons, mercenaries, and military advisers being sent regularly. This was proved in several incidents, the first of which was on 1 September 2015, when Greece seized a Turkish ship loaded with weapons bound for Libya.

In 2018, two shipments of Turkish weapons were seized enroute to Libya. The first on 10 January was carrying explosives, which was again stopped by Greece. On 19 December, another ship was stopped by the Libyan authorities at the Port of Al-Khums.

At the beginning of this year as part of the security cooperation agreement signed between Ankara and the GNA in November 2019, military support to Libya increased exponentially.

On 8 January, the Tunisian authorities thwarted an arms shipment from Turkey to Libya. Three weeks later the Libyan National Army (LNA) monitored the unloading of a Turkish cargo ship containing weapons in Tripoli.

On 18 February, the LNA launched an attack on another Turkish ship that was carrying weapons and ammunition, docked at the port of Tripoli. On 10 June, another shipment was intercepted by Greece on its way to Libya.

These moves come at a time when the rival Libyans parties are engaged in political dialogue under the auspices of the United Nations in Tunisia, Egypt, and Morocco. They hope to reach an agreement to start a transitional phase that would pave the way for resolving the nine year old crisis.