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Turkish vessel 'spotted escorting military shipment' to Libya in defiance of UN embargo

The UN Security Council has since February 2011 imposed an arms embargo on Libya. [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 January, 2020

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The cargo ship Bana docked in Tripoli port on Wednesday, a French military source said.

France's Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier this week spotted a Turkish frigate escorting a cargo ship delivering armoured vehicles to the Libyan capital Tripoli in defiance of a UN embargo, a French military source said Thursday.

The cargo ship Bana docked in Tripoli port on Wednesday, said the source, who asked not to be named.

According to the Marine Traffic specialist website, the vessel was recorded Thursday off the coast of Sicily.

The claim came a day after President Emmanuel Macron angered Ankara by accusing his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan of failing "to keep his word" to end meddling in the north African country.

Specifically, Macron said Turkish ships had in recent days been seen taking ships laden with pro-Ankara Syrian mercenaries to Libya.

The UN Security Council has since February 2011 imposed an arms embargo on Libya, relating to the supply of arms and military equipment to and from the country.

UN envoy Ghassan Salame warned Thursday that moves to resupply the parties in the conflict "threaten to precipitate a new and much more dangerous conflagration."

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Turkey backs the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) which has been fighting an offensive launched by fighters loyal to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, who controls three-quarters of Libyan territory.

Turkey's parliament this month approved a bill approving a military deployment to Libya to shore up the government but Ankara insists the numbers of Turkish troops are small and that they are only there to train Libyan forces.

In a conflict which has split regional powers, Turkey's main regional ally Qatar also supports the GNA but the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, staunch foes of Erdogan's Turkey, back pro-Haftar forces.

Russia, which has worked closely with Turkey on efforts to end the Syria conflict, is also seen as backing Haftar but denies funding Russian mercenaries on the ground.

The GNA has accused Paris of supporting Haftar and tacitly backing his assault on Tripoli, claims denied by French officials. 

Analysts say the UN embargo is systematically flouted, with France far less vocal about alleged violations by the UAE and Egypt in favour of Haftar.

The Turkish foreign ministry on Wednesday blamed France for Libya's instability, saying it was "no secret" that Paris had given "unconditional support" to Haftar with an eye on the country's energy reserves.

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