Turkey investigates vessel drama, rejects EU sanctions threat

Turkey investigates vessel drama, rejects EU sanctions threat

Turkish prosecutors have launched an investigation after the crew of a German frigate searched a Turkish commercial freighter.

Turkey has protested the November 22 incident on the Mediterranean Sea, insisting personnel from the German frigate Hamburg, which was participating in a European Union mission to enforce an arms embargo on Libya, illegally searched the Libya-bound freighter Rosaline-A.

Germany has rejected Turkey’s complaints, arguing the frigate’s crew acted correctly.

In a brief statement announcing its investigation on Friday, the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office said the search was conducted without “Turkey’s authorisation and against international regulations”.

The inquiry is not expected to lead to arrests or the extradition of officials involved in the search.

Hamburg is part of the EU’s Operation Irini, a mission launched in March with the goal of enforcing the United Nations’ arms embargo on Libya and tasked with inspecting vessels thought to be carrying weapons to and from Libya.

German officials said the order to board the Rosaline-A came from the mission’s headquarters in Rome and that Turkey objected while the inspection team was on the freighter.

Turkey says the search was “unauthorised and conducted by force” and insisted that its objections prior to the search were ignored.

Turkey rejects sanctions call

Also on Friday, Turkey rejected a call by the European Parliament for sanctions against Ankara over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent visit to the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in north Cyprus, calling the demand “disconnected from the realities”.

On Thursday, the European Parliament agreed on a non-binding resolution in support of EU member Cyprus urging EU leaders to “take action and impose tough sanctions” against Turkey, a move likely to bolster support for France’s push for sanctions on Ankara at a summit next month.

Turkey is at odds with EU members Greece and Cyprus over hydrocarbon exploration in disputed east Mediterranean waters.

Erdogan incensed Cyprus, whose territory covers the southern half of the partitioned Mediterranean island, on November 15 by visiting Varosha, a resort on the island that has been fenced-off and abandoned in no-man’s land since 1974.

Ankara supported the partial reopening of Varosha last month in a move criticised by the United States, Greece and Greek Cypriots.

‘Prejudiced and disconnected’

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy denounced the resolution and accused the European Parliament of being “prejudiced and disconnected from the realities” on Cyprus.

“If this approach and mentality are maintained, it would not be possible for EU bodies to make a constructive contribution to the settlement of the Cyprus issue,” Aksoy said.

Cyprus has been divided since a 1974 Turkish invasion after a brief Greek-inspired coup.

Only Ankara recognises Northern Cyprus as an independent state, but not the internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government to the south.

France has not yet drawn up sanctions against Turkey, but diplomats say any measures would probably target areas of Turkey’s economy linked to natural gas exploration in seas off the coast of Cyprus.