Haftar’s LNA forces accuse Turkey of violating truce agreement by supplying arms to Libyan government
On Monday, the forces of Libyan warlord General Khalifa Haftar, which control the country’s eastern territory, intercepted a commercial vessel with Jamaican flag. Further investigation revealed that the vessel, which was heading for the port Misrata in western Libya, belonged to Turkey and carried nine Turkish nations out of total 17 crew members.
The vessel was intercepted on the account that Turkey might be trying to send arms aid to Western Libya’s Government of National Accord (as it did in the past), despite the UN imposed arms embargo and truce agreement between the warring sides. Western Libya is governed by internationally recognised GNA, headed by Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. Libya has been battered by frequent and long stretched episodes of civil war between LNA and GNA forces fighting against each other to gain full control over the country.
On Monday. Ahmed al-Mismari, spokesman for LNA said that the seized vessel, called Mabruka, was “being investigated for its violations of maritime laws and regulations”. He added that the vessel was taken in custody after it violated international regulation by crossing into Libyan territorial waters without any prior information or permission. He added that when the vessel entered a restricted military area, it was then stopped and taken to Ras al-Hilal port.The details of the inspection of the goods carried by the vessel were not disclosed. “The ship’s crew is made of nine Turks, seven Indians and one Azerbaijani sailor. It is being investigated for its violations of maritime laws and regulations,” Mismari added in a statement.
Turkey responded to its vessel interception on Tuesday with a strong condemnation towards LNA forces, saying that the vessel must be released and allowed to resume its journey to western Libya and warned of consequences otherwise. “Targeting Turkish interests in Libya will have grave consequences, and these elements [who target Turkish interests] will be viewed as legitimate targets,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement. Turkey officially joined Libyan civil war in January this year, taking advantage of the country’s vulnerability just as it did incase of Syria. Turkey deployed its military forces and Syrian militias in Libya to support Sarraj’s GNA, despite the UN-imposed arms embargo. The intervention of foreign actors in Libya accelerated the conflict between the warring factions.
According to the US Geological Survey, the eastern Mediterranean is one of the richest energy resource in the world with the region holding approximately $700 billion worth natural gas. Out of that reserve, Turkey – despite objections from European nations – has been drilling for natural gas off the northern coast of the divided island of Cyprus. With Libya, being reduced to a mere colony of Erdogan, it would allow Turkey in accessing and drilling much more, help it in become one of the major energy exporter in the region.
Turkish vessel seized happened weeks after the signing of ceasefire agreement between the two sides. The truce deal was finalised to end the conflict through negotiations. UN has also been trying to establish to a stable government in the country by holding elections in the coming months. Libya has been war-riddled since the exit of its longtime autocrat Muammar Gaddafi, whose administration was toppled by LNA forces.