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Turkey slams EU mission to contain arms to Libya

Turkey on Friday criticised the EU’s Operation Irini aimed at halting arms shipments to Libya as “not objective”, a day after NATO said it would probe a naval incident with a French ship.

Irini was set up to enforce a United Nations arms embargo to Libya, where the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) faced a major uprising by the forces of strongman Khalifa Haftar.

Turkey strongly supports the GNA in Tripoli, sending sophisticated drones and air defence systems that helped it repel Haftar’s offensive.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Operation Irini failed to meet the demands and concerns of the Tripoli government.

“Does it say anything about the warplanes coming to Libya from Syria? Does it look into arms sent from Abu Dhabi? Does it have a report about France supplying arms to Haftar?” he asked during a joint news conference with Italian counterpart Luigi di Maio.

“It’s not objective. Operation Irini does not contribute to a solution to the Libya problem, nor the embargo,” Cavusoglu said in Ankara.

Di Maio said Operation Irini was criticised by rival sides in Libya, which “might be what makes it balanced”.

“Our objective is to guarantee air, naval and satellite structures precisely to be able to control the maritime borders, to control the flow of arms through vessels and across borders,” he said.

NATO said Thursday it has launched an official investigation into a naval incident in the Mediterranean between alliance members France and Turkey.

Paris has complained that one of its ships was subjected to radar targeting by Turkish frigates while trying to inspect a cargo vessel believed to be carrying arms to Libya.

But Ankara dismissed the allegations as “groundless”, accusing the French ship in turn of a “high-speed and dangerous manoeuvre”.

France has long been suspected of favouring Haftar, whose stronghold lies in Libya’s oil-rich east and who is also backed by Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Libya has been mired in chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Haftar has sought to regain control over western Libya, fighting the GNA in an abortive attempt to seize the capital Tripoli.

The Italian minister was initially due to visit Ankara on Wednesday but it was postponed when a high-level Turkish delegation including Cavusoglu and intelligence chief Hakan Fidan flew to Tripoli in an unannounced trip.

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