Libyan forces in the eastern part of the country claim they captured a ship with Turkish crew members in the midst of tensions in the eastern Mediterranean over a controversial sea border agreement between Ankara and competing parties in Libya.
Turkey has provided increased military assistance to the U.N .- backed government in Tripoli, Libya.
The UN-backed government is a bitter rival to the east-based one in the protracted conflict in Libya. Libya is divided between the two sides, each with funding from a number of militias and foreign governments.
The self-styled Libyan National Army, which supports the east-based government, said in a statement late Saturday that a vessel flying a Grenada flag had been forcibly taken to a Libyan port for inspection with several Turkish crew members. It remained unclear, however, whether the move was actually a seizure.
Turkey and Libya’s government in Tripoli last month signed a maritime agreement causing international outrage and concern from a number of Mediterranean countries. The deal provides Turkey with access to a disputed economic zone across the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The angry Greece, Turkey’s long-standing competitor, expelled Libya’s ambassador after the agreement.
Greek foreign minister Nikos Dendias visited the east-based administration headquarters in Benghazi on Sunday.
A meeting statement quoted Dendias as opposing the security agreement as a “danger to Libya’s independence and the region as a whole.”
A senior Benghazi lawmaker told The Associated Press that Turkish negotiations are a “provocation” for neighboring Arab and European countries.
“This will prolong the conflict and threaten the nations of North Africa … To spread chaos in the region,” said Talal Al-Mihoub, Chair of the National Security and Defense Committee of Parliament.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that if formally requested by the government of Tripoli, Turkey could send troops to Libya. “We will increase our support for Libya’s military aspect if needed,” Erdogan declared again on Sunday.