ROME / TRIPOLI
Despite its aggressive boarding this week of a Turkish ship carrying humanitarian aid, an EU operation meant to enforce an arms embargo on Libya is turning a blind eye to shipments coming across land borders and from Egypt, according to Libyan and Turkish officials.
On Sunday, a German frigate under the EU’s Operation Irini boarded and inspected the Turkish-flagged merchant cargo vessel Roseline A, in a move that drew sharp condemnations from Turkey.
Neither Turkey nor the captain gave permission for the search at gunpoint, which turned up nothing illicit, according to official statements.
For many, this move underlined how the EU operation is seemingly incapable of being carried out impartially.
Turkey has long said the arms embargo on the war-torn North African country is being enforced in a way that favors warlord Khalifa Haftar and his attacks on Libya’s legitimate, UN-recognized Government of National accord (GNA).
Operation Irini started this April, but has drawn criticism for failing to take any steps to block arms shipments from Libya’s land border with Egypt.
On Nov. 17 Libyan Defense Minister Salahaddin Namroush told Italian Adm. Fabio Agostin that Operation Irini is not impartial and will be rejected by the government if it continues working this way, according to Libyan Defense Ministry sources.
Namroush added that the operation focuses on sea borders while ignoring the land and air routes as the other side – Haftar’s forces – continue to receive support from other countries.
On May 8, Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj told Italian dailiy Corriere della Sera that their enemies get most of their military equipment by land and air routes.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has also decried the operation’s bias.
Most ships searched came from Turkey
Since the operation began, five ships have been searched by the operation, including three that embarked from Turkey:
– The ship MV Royal Diamond 7, carrying jet fuel from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) port of Sharjah, was inspected on Sept. 10 and diverted to an EU port, preventing it from reaching Benghazi, Libya.
-The Panamanian-flagged cargo ship MV Medkon Sinop, traveling from Turkey to the port of Misrata, was stopped by the French frigate Latouche-Treville and later allowed to continue its way.
-The Syrian-flagged cargo ship MV Capt Aveda, en route from Turkey to Misrata, was inspected by the French frigate Latouche-Treville on Oct. 24 and continued on its way after nothing suspicious was found.
-The Panamanian-flagged MV Serrano, en route from Alexandria, Egypt to Tobruk, was inspected by the Greek frigate Adrias on Nov. 18, and continued on its way when nothing suspicious was found.
– The Turkish-flagged Roseline A, traveling from Turkey to Misrata, was intercepted on Nov. 22 by the German frigate Hamburg. A search of the ship only found food, paint, and humanitarian aid, and it was allowed to continue its journey.
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