ANKARA

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday condemned the detaining of a Turkish ship transporting medicine to Libya’s port of Misrata by forces loyal to Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar. 

Haftar’s forces detained the vessel and its 17 crew members, including nine Turkish citizens, earlier in the day, claiming they did not comply with instructions. The vessel was also fined.

The Foreign Ministry statement condemned this practice and said steps should immediately be taken to enable the ship to resume its planned voyage.

It said Haftar and his militias have maintained their aggressive stance even in a period when the political process between Turkey and the Libyan people is being advanced under the leadership of the UN in Libya.

The statement stressed that if Turkish interests are targeted in Libya, there would be serious consequences and that these elements would be considered legitimate targets.

Ahmed al-Mismari, Haftar’s spokesman, said on his social media account that the Jamaican-flagged commercial cargo ship Mebruka, whose owner is stated to be a Turk, was caught by Haftar’s militia. The militia claims the ship entered a prohibited area and did not respond to calls and withdrew to the port of Ras al-Hilal.

Al-Mismari added that the ship was “investigated and inspected because it violated maritime rules and laws.”

He also told the Al-Hadath television channel that the ship was loaded with drugs to be taken to Misrata but entered the forbidden area.

Claiming they made a call to the ship but did not receive a response, Mismari said: “We approached the ship with boats and boarded it”

The captain did not follow the procedures and the ship entered the prohibited area without permission, he said, adding there were no weapons on board.

According to information obtained by Anadolu Agency, the crew are in good condition.

Sources said the procedure has been applied to other ships in the region but no ships have been seized and a penalty was foreseen for entering the wrong area.

Libya has been torn by civil war since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Based in the capital Tripoli and currently led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, the Government of National Accord was founded in 2015 under a UN-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political settlement have failed due to a military offensive by Haftar.

Al-Sarraj’s government, which is also supported by Turkey, is recognized by the UN as Libya’s legitimate authority.

Tripoli has been battling Haftar’s militias since April 2019 in a conflict that has claimed thousands of lives.

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