Turkey has criticised a European Union’s naval mission aimed at halting arms shipments to Libya as “not objective”, a day after NATO said it would investigate an incident in the Mediterranean involving Turkish and French ships.
Named after the Greek word for peace, Operation Irini was set up to enforce a United Nations arms embargo against Libya, where the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) is fighting the eastern-based forces of renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar.
Turkey supports the GNA in Tripoli, sending drones and air defence systems that helped it repel a military offensive by Haftar, who is backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates among others, on the capital.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday Operation Irini had failed to meet the demands and concerns of the internationally recognised government.
“Does it say anything about the warplanes coming to Libya from Syria? Does it look into arms sent from Abu Dhabi? Does it have a report about France supplying arms to Haftar?” he asked during a joint news conference with his Italian counterpart, Luigi di Maio.
“It’s not objective. Operation Irini does not contribute to a solution to the Libya problem, nor the embargo,” Cavusoglu said in Ankara.
Cavusoglu also said Turkey would work together with Italy to achieve stable peace and a political process that will yield results in Libya, adding that the NATO allies could also cooperate in the eastern Mediterranean.
For his part, Di Maio said Operation Irini was criticised by rival sides in Libya, which “might be what makes it balanced”.
“Our objective is to guarantee air, naval and satellite structures precisely to be able to control the maritime borders, to control the flow of arms through vessels and across borders,” he said.
Meanwhile, NATO said on Thursday it had launched an official investigation into a naval incident in the Mediterranean between alliance members France and Turkey.
Paris has complained that one of its ships was subjected to radar targeting by Turkish frigates while trying to inspect a cargo vessel believed to be carrying arms to Libya.
However, Ankara dismissed the allegations as “groundless”, accusing the French ship in turn of a “high-speed and dangerous manoeuvre”.
France accused Turkey of repeated violations of the UN arms embargo on Libya and branded Ankara an obstacle to securing a ceasefire there.
Paris has long been suspected of favouring Haftar, whose stronghold lies in Libya’s oil-rich east.
Libya has been mired in chaos since the 2011 uprising that overthrew and later killed longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.