ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey and Germany were at loggerheads on Monday after a German frigate enforcing an arms embargo against Libya intercepted a Turkish freighter in the Mediterranean sea and carried out what a senior Turkish official dismissed as an “illegal” search.
Turkey said personnel from the German frigate Hamburg were flown by helicopter aboard the freighter Rosaline-A on Sunday as its sailed off the Libyan coast to carry out an hours-long search.
Germany’s Defense Ministry said Turkey ordered a halt to the search, forcing the German personnel to depart before completing their work. During their search, the German team had found no cargo that contravened the arms embargo, German Defense Ministry spokesman Christian Thiels told reporters in Berlin.
This was the second incident between Turkey and naval forces from a NATO ally country enforcing an arms blockade against Libya. In June, NATO launched an investigation over an incident between Turkish warships and a French naval vessel in the Mediterranean, after France said one of its frigates was “lit up” three times by Turkish naval targeting radar when it tried to approach a Turkish civilian ship suspected of involvement in arms trafficking.
A Turkish government official said the German warship’s personnel boarded Rosaline-A without Turkey’s permission in violation of maritime laws. They ended the search around dawn after “understanding that there was nothing but humanitarian aid, biscuits and other material such as paints on board,” the official said.
The Rosaline-A continued on its way to Misrata after the search, the official said, adding that Turkey planned to lodge formal complaints about the incident. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with Turkish government rules.
Thiels, the German Defense Ministry spokesman, said the German crew requested permission to board.
“Upon receiving no reply, a German search team was brought by helicopter to the freighter and commenced the search, and the crew was ‘cooperative’,” Thiels said.
While the team continued its search, German authorities were notified by Turkey that they did not allow it. The search was then ended and the team sent back to the frigate, Thiels said.
The German official said the order to board the ship came from mission’s operational headquarters in Rome.
Associated Press writer David Rising in Berlin contributed.