Ankara said on Tuesday the European Union’s decision to impose sanctions on a Turkish firm accused of breaking a UN arms embargo on Libya was evidence of the EU’s “double standards.”
The previous day, the EU had frozen the assets of Avrasya Shipping, whose cargo vessel Cirkin was involved in a naval incident between NATO members France and Turkey in June. Brussels has accused the company of using the ship to smuggle weapons to Libya. Ankara denied the arms-trafficking claim, saying it was carrying humanitarian aid.
“The EU’s Irini Operation is rewarding Haftar, and punishing the UN-recognized Libyan government,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday, referring to Brussels’ military mission in the Mediterranean to stop arms from reaching warring factions in Libya.
Turkey is supporting Libya’s Tripoli-based internationally recognized Government of National Accord. Field-Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) controls eastern Libya and much of the south.
The ministry in Ankara believes the EU is overlooking other countries and companies that “send weapons from land and air to the putschist Haftar in violation of the [UN Security Council] decisions, while the support provided to the legitimate government … is deemed an embargo violation,” which “is a clear signal that the EU is … biased.”
Ankara also said on Tuesday that, if the EU wants security and stability in the region, it should abandon this “biased attitude” and act in consultation and cooperation with Turkey.
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However, the EU also imposed sanctions on two other companies: Kazakhstan’s Sigma Airlines and Jordan’s Med Wave Shipping, and two Libyan men. One of them is Mahmoud al-Werfalli, who the EU said was a commander in eastern Libya responsible for the killing of 33 people and one mass execution. The second was Moussa Diab, whom EU officials accused of human trafficking, rape, and killing refugees.
Brussels had earlier warned it may also impose sanctions on Ankara, due to a dispute with Greece and Cyprus over ownership of natural resources in the Eastern Mediterranean. Tensions between Ankara and Athens have lessened in recent days, but Turkey’s Foreign Ministry believes the sanctions on Avrasya Shipping are “unfortunate.”
In an incident in the Eastern Mediterranean on June 10, a French frigate on a NATO mission tried to inspect the Cirkin cargo ship. France claims its frigate was harassed by three Turkish navy vessels escorting the cargo ship, while a Turkish ship flashed its radar lights. Turkey disputed this and has accused the French navy of aggression.
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