Turkey on Thursday criticized Germany for taking part in a “biased” EU initiative to enforce a UN arms embargo on Libya’s warring sides.

After meetings with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and Maltese Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters that by sending frigates to the initiative, dubbed Operation Irini, Germany endangered its impartiality in the conflict, as well as the legitimacy of the Berlin Conference to end the fighting in the North African country.

Cavusoglu argued that Operation Irini supported warlord Khalifa Haftar and his backers, for whom the EU has been acting as an instrument.

On March 31, EU foreign ministers approved the launch of Operation IRINI.

The mission aimed to operate in the air and sea, as well as with Earth-orbiting satellites, to ensure that all countries respect the ban on providing arms to the parties involved in the Libyan conflict.

EU forces will also watch for illegal oil exports, prevent human trafficking and contribute to the training of the local coast guard and navy as a complementary task.

Alleging that some European countries did not oppose the initiative in a bid to benefit from EU funds, Cavusoglu praised Malta for its bravery in leaving the operation.

He noted that during the talks in Libya, Turkey reiterated its support and cooperation with the North African country and that the sides discussed the prospects for a political process and truce.

Bartolo’s presence was another significant point of the visit, he said. “European countries, especially those neighboring the Mediterranean, should further strengthen their cooperation with Libya because developments here always reverberate in Europe, particularly those countries to the Mediterranean’s north.”

Cavusoglu and Bartolo left for Libya on Thursday for a working visit.

Following the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya’s government was founded in 2015 under a UN-led political deal.

The Libyan army has recently made gains against Haftar’s militias, which are supported by France, Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

Irregular migration

Cavusoglu underlined that Libya was facing problems in the fight against irregular immigration, with nearly 800,000 illegal immigrants in the war-torn country.

“Turkey understands Libya best on this issue. Therefore, it’s necessary to support Libya and establish cooperation between European countries and Libya.”

Urging the EU to provide strong support for Libya as the country grapples with irregular migration, he noted that the Turkish Coast Guard had provided two boats to Libya and that it would repair existing vessels.

Cavusoglu highlighted that basic services in Libya, such as electricity, water, sanitation and public transport, urgently needed to be met, adding: “Although there is no officially declared cease-fire, there is still calm in the field. Now, people are waiting to be served. “

Cavusoglu stressed that the Libyan government wanted a permanent cease-fire in the regions of Sirte and Jufra, alleging that Haftar does not believe in a political resolution to the conflict and could attack the Misrata — its last recently lost stronghold in western Libya — or the capital Tripoli at any time.

Beirut explosion

On a massive explosion in the capital of Lebanon on Tuesday, Cavusoglu said eight Turkish nationals had been injured and that Turkey sent relief teams to help the country recover.

Stressing the importance of supplying emergency aid to Beirut and the reconstruction of the city, he said: “We’ve always stood by Lebanon. Now and in the future, we will stand by Lebanon and the brotherly Lebanese people.”

Beirut and its surrounding suburbs were rocked Tuesday by a massive explosion that left at least 135 people dead and nearly 5,000 injured.

Following the blast, Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab declared Wednesday a national day of mourning.

Lebanese Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi said the investigation into the blast would be transparent and last for five days and that those responsible would be held accountable.

On Wednesday, the Lebanese government approved a decision of the Supreme Defense Council for a state of emergency in Beirut.

The blast struck Lebanon while the country was experiencing its worst economic crisis along with a dramatic drop in the Lebanese pound against the US dollar.

*Writing by Seda Sevencan

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