Berlin, Germany – German Navy soldiers who stopped the Turkish cargo ship 200 kilometres north of Benghazi, Libya, and tried to conduct an illegal search abandoned the ship on Monday morning when Turkey stepped in instantly.

“We are protesting this unauthorized and forceful act. We regret that the personnel were treated as criminals during the inspection,” the Foreign Ministry said, announcing that Operation Irini did not inspect the ships going to Hafter. Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry said the EU, German and Italian ambassadors had been given the memo.

The controversial Operation Irini, set up by the European Union (EU) to control ships bound for Libya, has once again confronted Turkey.

A German frigate serving in Irini reported that Hamburg had stopped a Turkish cargo ship sailing off Benghazi.

German Navy soldiers stationed in Hamburg stopped the cargo ship Roseline-A on Sunday, about 200 kilometres from Benghazi. He announced that the ship, anchored from Istanbul, was heading to the Port of Misrata.

A German frigate in operation Irini, headed by a Greek commander, searched for hours in the Eastern Mediterranean for a ship carrying various substances, such as food and paint, from Turkey to Libya, in violation of international law.

The cargo ship was intercepted by German forces southwest of the Peloponnese peninsula.

According to the law of the sea, the consent of the flag state must be obtained for personnel to come on board to be able to search the ships.

Without such permission from Turkey, the personnel of the Hamburg frigate disembarked the ship from a helicopter.

The staff’s descent from the helicopter and the movements of the Hamburg frigate around the Turkish ship were also recorded by the staff on their mobile phone.

German soldiers also opened all containers, ignoring warnings that what was done without permission from Turkey was not legal.

After the search, which lasted until the first light of the morning, the soldiers realized that there was nothing on the ship except humanitarian supplies, food, paint, and then left the ship.

At noon, the foreign ministry released an official statement on its website: “Operation Irini is an operation carried out by the EU, but its purpose and benefit are open to debate.

As part of this operation yesterday (22 November), the German warship ‘Hamburg’ questioned the Turkish-flagged merchant ship ‘MV Roseline A’, which was transporting paint, paint materials and humanitarian supplies from the Port of Ambarli to Misurata in detail in the morning.

The captain cooperated and shared detailed information about the ship’s cargo and expedition. Despite this, at 17:45, armed elements of Operation Irini came aboard and conducted a ‘inspection’ that lasted for many hours.

All personnel, including the captain, were forcibly searched, all personnel were gathered and detained in one place, armed soldiers were planted on the captain’s head, containers were searched by force.

The intervention in question was carried out neither with the consent of our country as a flag state, nor with the consent of the ship’s captain. Despite the captain’s statements about the nature of the cargo being transported, this intervention, which was launched on ambiguous suspicion and continued until after midnight, was terminated only on the insistent objections of our country. Armed personnel waited on the merchant ship until morning and left the ship at 09:38 in the morning.

We regret that our ship, which does not violate the arms embargo, was detained for hours under heavy weather conditions, as well as that the personnel were treated as criminals during the inspection.

We are protesting this unauthorized and forceful act. Any right to compensation of the natural and legal persons concerned for damages and losses that may arise from this shall be reserved in its nature.

In order to interfere with commercial vessels in international waters, it is essential to obtain the consent of the flag state. The UN resolutions on the Libyan arms embargo do not eliminate this obligation.

The neutrality of Operation Irini, launched by the EU without consultation with the legitimate Libyan Government, our country, or NATO, is already debatable. However, this double-standard and illegal treatment of ships transporting from our country to Libya is never acceptable.

As we have mentioned many times before, Operation Irini is a biased operation. The coup is an attempt to punish the legitimate Libyan government, which does not control the arms support that comes to Hafter, and practices arbitrarily.”

Operation Irini is a controversial operation launched in the Mediterranean by the European Union (EU) to oversee the United Nations (UN) arms embargo on Libya.

Although consultation and permission with the National Reconciliation Government, which is included as the legitimate government in UN Security Council resolution 2292, operation Irini, launched, reacts as a biased and illegal operation. Some European countries do not voice the operation in order to benefit from EU funds, while some countries that have been bolder are withdrawing from the operation by putting their reactions to it.

A German frigate serving under a Greek-commanded EU naval mission conducted an hours-long and illegal search early on Monday on a Turkish cargo ship carrying humanitarian supplies in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea to war-torn Libya.

In what security sources have described as “unlawful conduct,” the Rosaline A cargo vessel was intercepted by the German ship southwest of the Peloponnese islands to search its contents until the early-morning hours, uncovering only humanitarian materials, food and paint.

The frigate was involved in Operation Irini, a European mission launched earlier this year to enforce the UN arms embargo on the war-torn North African country, though it has been accused of bias in favor of warlord Khalifa Haftar and his allies.

The search reportedly violated international law, which requires a party to obtain the consent of a ship’s flag state before searching a vessel, according to the law of the sea.

Apparently flouting this principle, personnel from the German ship, the Hamburg, landed on the Roselina-A in a helicopter, even as the cargo ship’s crew captured the scene on footage.

After blocking the Roselina-A’s course towards Misrate port for hours, the troops departed the vessel when they realized it only carried humanitarian supplies, food and paint.

During the search, they opened all the containers on the ship, ignoring warnings that their actions did not have permission from Turkey and were thus illegal.

Turkey reportedly plans to take action before international organizations concerning the incident which also reportedly violated the principle of “freedom of the high seas.”

Hamburg frigate, led by a Greek commander, conducted the raid without informing Turkey, as per international maritime law, Turkish security forces say.

German frigate Hamburg working under Operation Irini has illegally conducted an operation on a Turkish cargo vessel carrying humanitarian aid to war-torn Libya, about 200 kilometers off the Libyan coast.

Turkey said on Sunday that the Hamburg frigate, led by a Greek commander, conducted the illegal operation without informing the flag-carrier nation’s authorities, as per international maritime law.

Turkey said the operation took place in international waters, south of the Morea Peninsula, making it an unlawful search.

‘Biased’ Irini operation

Turkish foreign ministry slammed the “biased” Irini operation, saying it ignores weapons heading to Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar.

“The neutrality of Operation Irini, which the EU launched without consulting with the legitimate Libyan government, our country, or NATO, is currently under discussion,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said.

“This double-standard and illegal treatment applied to ships transporting from our country to Libya are never acceptable,” he said.

“As we have mentioned many times before, the Irini operation is a biased operation. It is an operation that does not control the arms support to the putschist Haftar and is used arbitrarily to punish the legitimate Libyan government,” he said.

Misuse of Irni operation

Soldiers from the frigate Hamburg boarded the Turkish freighter, the Rosaline A, overnight from a helicopter, but had to abandon it after finding nothing but food and paint supplies, sources said, adding that it was heading to the Misrata Port in Libya.

“Following the search that lasted until the early hours of the morning, the soldiers understood that there was nothing on the ship apart from humanitarian aid, foods such as biscuits, and paint materials, and left the ship,” a Turkish security source said.

Operation Irini, approved by EU foreign ministers on March 31 2020, aims to operate in the air and sea and with satellites to ensure that all countries respect a ban on providing arms to the parties involved in the Libyan conflict.

Seven countries are participating in Operation Irini, named after the Greek word for peace, including Italy, Greece, France, Germany, Poland, Malta, and Luxembourg, with frigates and maritime patrol aircraft.

Germany accused Turkey on Monday of preventing German forces belonging to an EU military mission from fully searching a Turkish cargo ship that they suspected of taking weapons to Libya, a move Turkey said was a violation of international law.

Soldiers from the frigate Hamburg boarded the Turkish freighter, the Roseline A, overnight, but had to abandon checks and withdraw after Turkey protested to the EU mission, which had ordered the search, the German Defence Ministry said.

Turkey said the search, at sea southwest of the Greek Peloponnese peninsula, violated international law as permission had not been granted.

The incident is further friction between Turkey and the European Union. The EU’s foreign policy chief has warned that ties are reaching a “watershed moment” over Turkish oil prospecting in waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus, saying that sanctions could be imposed next month.

The frigate was operating in the Mediterranean as part of the EU’s Irini mission, which aims to stop goods and humanitarian aids reaching Tripoli, Libya. Unfortunately, EU’s Irini mission backs Tobruk-based warlord Khalifa Haftar forces, Russian and Egyptian backed rebels in the country’s east in its fight against the internationally recognised government in Tripoli, Western Libya. Biased Irini mission does not check in naval shipments to Eastern Libya.

Turkey said the vessel was carrying humanitarian aid and the soldiers had found nothing suspicious. A German Defence Ministry spokesman also said they had not found anything suspicious by the time they were ordered off the ship.

Turkey said the Hamburg violated international law by not waiting for permission to board. Germany said they had sought permission, and that, after four hours had passed with no reply, it was standard practice to believe there was implicit permission.

Turkey released footage showing armed men in military uniform marshalling sailors with their hands on their heads on the bridge of what it said was the Roseline A.

Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hami Aksoy said: “The captain showed cooperation and shared information about the ship’s freight and its course. Despite this, at 17:45, armed forces from the Irini Operation boarded the ship and carried out a ‘monitoring’ that lasted long hours.”

“We protest this act, which was carried out by force and without authorisaton (and) retain the right to seek compensation,” he said.

Confirming a report in the news magazine Der Spiegel, the German spokesman said the Hamburg had intercepted the Rosaline A about 200 km (125 miles) north of the Libyan city of Benghazi on Sunday night.

“All procedures were followed correctly,” a German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said, adding that the sailors had withdrawn as soon as Turkey objected.

The 16,000-tonne container ship left the Turkish port of Gemlik near Bursa last week, and was last seen off Athens, heading southwest towards Libya, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

Freedom of navigation

Freedom of navigation (FON) is a principle of customary international law that ships flying the flag of any sovereign state shall not suffer interference from other states, apart from the exceptions provided for in international law. In the realm of international law, it has been defined as “freedom of movement for vessels, freedom to enter ports and to make use of plant and docks, to load and unload goods and to transport goods and passengers. This right is now also codified as Article 87 a of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Not all UN member states have ratified the convention; notably, the United States has signed, but not ratified the convention. However, the United States enforces the practice.