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Ankara summons EU, Italian, German envoys over search for arms on Turkish cargo ship

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Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Monday summoned the envoys in Ankara of the European Union, Italy and Germany to protest the search a Turkish commercial vessel by German sailors for a suspected arms shipment to Libya.

Earlier, Germany had accused Turkey of preventing its sailors, part of an EU military mission, from completing a search of the ship, a move Ankara said was a violation of international law.

The embargo-monitoring mission, Operation Irini, launched in March to enforce a United Nations arms embargo on war-torn Libya, issued no immediate comment, but the German defense ministry said they had asked for permission.

Germany said after four hours had passed with no reply, it was standard practice to believe there was implicit permission.

Turkey said the freighter, the Roseline A, was carrying humanitarian aid and that the sailors had found nothing suspicious. German authorities also confirmed they had not found anything suspicious by the time they were ordered off the ship.

Turkish media repeatedly aired footage showing a quarrel between crewmembers and the German sailors who landed on the ship in a helicopter.

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer backed the German crew’s actions on Tuesday.

“It is important to me to make really clear that the Bundeswehr sailors behaved completely correctly,” she said during an appearance in Berlin. “They did what was asked of them as part of the European Irini mandate.”

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Monday that “the intervention was conducted without the consent of either Turkey, as the flag state, or the master of the vessel.”

“The armed personnel continued to remain on board and left the commercial vessel at 09:38 in the morning,” the Turkish statement said.

“We protest this act, which was carried out by force and without authorization [and] retain the right to seek compensation,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said.

Turkey backs the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), which had been fighting against the Libyan National Army (LNA) until a recent ceasefire, and has been accused by European powers of escalating the conflict with military aid and the transfer of foreign fighters to Libyan soil.

The search of the ship came amid tensions between the European Union and Ankara over maritime disputes between Turkey and bloc members Greece and Cyprus.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said last week that the bloc’s relations with Turkey were on the verge of a “watershed moment.”

“We consider that it is important that Turkey understands that its behavior is widening its separation from the EU. … In order to return to a positive agenda, as we wish, will require a fundamental change of attitude on the Turkish side,” Borrell underlined during a Thursday teleconference of the bloc’s foreign ministers.

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