Haftar's forces seize ship with Turkish crew, spokesman says

Turkish-crewed ship seized by Haftar's forces after Ankara approves Libya military pact
2 min read
22 December, 2019
Turkey's parliament on Saturday approved a military and security cooperation deal with Libya's UN-recognise government.
Haftar launched an assault on GNA-held Tripoli in April [AFP]
Libyan forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar seized a Grenada-flagged ship with a Turkish crew on Saturday, a spokesman said.

The capture of the vessel of the Libyan coast came amid rising tensions with Turkey, which backs the rival, internationally recognised Libyan government

Turkey's parliament on Saturday approved a security and military cooperation deal with Libya, which could pave the way for Ankara to intervene to assist the Tripoli-based government in its ongoing battle with Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA).

LNA navy combat vessel stopped the Grenada-flagged ship off the coast of the eastern city of Derna on Saturday, spokesman Ahmed Mismari told Reuters. The ship was then towed to Ras El Hilal port "for inspection and to verify its cargo," he said.

Mismari gave no further details.

Earlier this month, the chief of staff for Haftar's navy threatened to sink "any Turkish ship which enters Libya's borders".

Read more: Turkish-Libyan alliance in eastern Mediterranean: A game changer?

Turkey's increasing support for the UN-recognised Libyan government in Tripoli has courted controversy across the Mediterranean and in Europe.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) premier Fayez al-Sarraj last month inked maritime and military cooperation deals.

The maritime deal would give Turkey access to an economic zone across the Mediterranean, despite the objections of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, which lie between Turkey and Libya geographically. The European Union has already threatened sanctions against Ankara for its gas exploration activities off the coast of Cyprus.

Erdogan has said Ankara is ready to send troops into Libya if requested by Tripoli but the current military agreement would not allow Turkish combatant forces to go to Libya.

But it would allow both sides to send military personnel and police to each others' countries for training and education purposes, senior Turkish officials say.

For the Turkish government to deploy combat troops to Libya would require a separate mandate from parliament, as it does to send forces to Iraq and Syria each year.

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