Turkey to use its legal right against EU for unlawful inspection on its ship: Minister
Turkey will make use of its rights based on international law against the intervention by a European mission on Turkey’s merchant ship bound to Libya, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül said on Nov. 25, while President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has pointed out the role of Greece in the tension.
“The intervention on our merchant ship sailing to Libya is unauthorized and unlawful. We, as the Republic of Turkey, will use all our rights based on international law. These initiatives and unlawful actions will never be able to discourage our country from its decisive stance that supports international law,” Gül said.
Turkey has always been patient and calm in the eastern Mediterranean despite the “provocations” of Greece and the Greek Cypriots, Erdoğan said, recalling that the German frigate, which intercepted the Turkish vessel was under the control of a Greek official.
“Unfortunately, despite our calm and patient behavior, there was an attack on our civilian ship, which was carrying goods to Libya to meet humanitarian needs. This has no place in international maritime law. The captain of this [frigate] is Greek. After embarking on the ship, unfortunately, they harassed the civilian crew there. All of these have been detected by video recordings. Of course, they were also sent to the necessary places,” Erdoğan said, addressing his lawmakers on Nov. 25.
Ankara will do whatever is deemed necessary, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stated.
“Our president’s instructions are in this direction, as well. We cannot leave anything done to us unanswered,” he told reporters on Nov. 24.
“We will not only respond on the field but follow the judicial and political processes, as well,” he added.
Turkey’s top diplomat accused a German frigate of violating international law when it stopped and searched a commercial vessel without the consent of its flag-state or its captain.
“It is a violation of international law to embark on trade ships like pirates,” Çavuşoğlu said.
The minister underlined that both Turkey’s Foreign Ministry and its embassy in Rome, where the headquarters of Operation Irini are located under which the German frigate Hamburg has been operating, had made the necessary warnings against the boarding action that it could not be lawfully carried out without the permission of the flag state.
He also said they have negotiated on the issue with the U.N., NATO and the International Maritime Organization.
“We’ll follow the political and judicial process of the issue. We won’t let go of this incident,” he said.
Defense minister: Turkey works on measures to protect commercial vessels
Ankara is working on measures to protect Turkish commercial vessels, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Nov. 24.
“Operation Irini was stillborn. It has lacked a solid basis in terms of international law since the beginning,” he said, adding that the operation’s implementation has been problematic since the beginning.
The EU should have asked Libya’s U.N.-recognized government for permission before launching the operation this March, Akar said.
Under Operation Irini, a German frigate on Sunday illegally stopped and searched a private Turkish-flagged ship carrying materials and humanitarian aid to Libya, drawing condemnation from Turkish leaders.
Turkey has long stated that the arms embargo on the war-torn North African country was being enforced in a manner biased to warlord Khalifa Haftar. The Turkish ship was only carrying materials such as food and paint to Libya’s port of Misrata, and did not violate the U.N. arms embargo, according to the Foreign Ministry.
The operation officially announced that there were no illegal materials found during their search.
Turkey: German frigate boarded Turkish ship by force
The German frigate forcefully and unlawfully boarded a Turkey-flagged cargo vessel without the consent of flag state and captain, Turkey’s National Defense Ministry stated on Nov. 24.
In a written statement on the incident that took place on Nov. 22 off the Peloponnese islands, the ministry noted that U.N. Security Council resolution 2292 required consultations and permission from the Libyan government to search vessels as part of the U.N. arms embargo on Libya, where the Turkish cargo ship, Rosaline-A, was headed.
Despite this, the Greek-led Operation Irini, under which the German frigate Hamburg was operating, was initiated in March by the EU in the eastern Mediterranean Sea with-out satisfying these requirements.
The headquarters of Operation Irini are located in Rome, where the commander of the headquarters is an Italian, deputy commander is a French and commander of its mari-time components is a Greek, while its naval forces include Greek, Italian, and German frigates, the statement said.
The crew of Rosaline-A was questioned via radio by the German frigate Hamburg at around 12:30 p.m. local time [0930 GMT], it reported.
“Afterwards, the Irini Operations Center asked for permission to search the vessel. The government of Turkey informed the Irini Operations Center at 5:44 p.m. [1444GMT] that it did not permit the vessel to be searched,” the ministry said.
“Despite not having the consent of the flag state and captain of the ship, the German frigate’s armed and equipped search team boarded the vessel via a helicopter at 6 p.m. [1500 GMT] by force.”
The ministry added that the team had conducted a thorough search and left the vessel at 9:30 the next morning [0630GMT] via helicopter.
Accusing the search team of treating the Rosaline-A’s crew “as criminals” during the roughly 16-hour search when they were gathered in a single place, it went on to say that the search was terminated upon Turkey’s persistent protests, as well as the failure to find a “suspicious situation” on board as the cargo consisted items like flour, oil, biscuits, meat, cosmetics, health, and “similar consumption and construction supplies.”
Turkey expects allies to act in line with international law
The ministry said it had concerns about such an “unlawful practice” by an allied navy. “It is clear that the operation commander, who commanded the ships at sea in this wrongful practice, behaved biased and emotionally.”
“All of our rights in this matter are reserved. It should not be forgotten that this type of bullying will set an example for other practices,” it said.
Questioning Operation Irini’s legitimacy, the ministry said it violated the principle of freedom of the open seas and ignored the support provided to putschist Haftar’s forces in Libya.
It stressed that Turkey, since the beginning, held the position that the Libyan crisis could only be resolved through political dialogue, not military means.
Turkey is ready to work towards the preservation of peace and stability in the region and to increase the necessary cooperation and coordination by preventing such incidents, the ministry said.
“We expect all parties, especially our allies, to act in accordance with international law, maritime law and customs,” the ministry stated.