Turkey Blasts EU, Greek Naval Commander for Stopping Vessel En Route to Libya

Image capture from video of the event, which was released by Turkey

The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Monday summoned the ambassadors of Germany, Italy and the European Union to protest what it calls the “illegal” interception of a Libya-bound Turkish vessel during the European Union-led Operation Irini on Sunday.

Operation Irini, a European Union military operation under the umbrella of the Common Security and Defense Policy, was launched on March 31, 2020 with the aim of enforcing the United Nations’ arms embargo on Libya.

Currently the operation is under the command of a Greek officer, a fact that has been highlighted by the Turkish media. “Provocation by the Greek commander in East Mediterranean”, wrote TRThaber, claiming that the order to the German frigate was given by the Greek Commander of the Irini mission.

Captain Theodoros Mikropoulos recently officially assumed the position of the operation’s Commander at Sea for the second half of 2020. The commander’s ship is the frigate “Adrias,” while the Naval staff of the company is comprised of 14 Greek staff officers, among others.

The Turkish cargo vessel, suspected of smuggling weapons, was stopped by a German frigate participating in Irini and inspected by EU forces about 200 kilometers off the Libyan coast on Sunday.

“Operation Irini is a sided operation. It is an operation that aims to punish the legitimate Libyan government and does not inspect arms supplies to the putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar, and is involved in arbitrary practices,” ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy said Monday.

According to Ankara, the cargo vessel was carrying food and paint supplies to Libya. Footage obtained by Turkish security sources showed armed soldiers boarding the ship.

Aksoy noted that the Turkish vessel’s captain cooperated with Operation Irini forces and shared extensive information about the vessel’s cargo and navigation but faced an hourslong inspection despite their cooperation.

“All the staff was detained and the captain was held at gunpoint by soldiers during the inspection,” Aksoy said. He added that the search was conducted without the approval of the vessel’s country of origin.