Greek media reported that an incident occurred on Wednesday (10 June) off the coast of Libya. A Tanzanian-flagged cargo vessel allegedly carrying weapons for Libya escorted by three Turkish frigates broke the arms embargo of the EU Irini operation.
Apparently, there was only one Greek frigate monitoring the arms embargo on behalf of the EU.
When the Tanzanian-flagged vessel was asked to back off, the Turkish frigates said the ship was under the protection of the Turkish state. Considering that there was only one EU frigate, it ultimately backed down. Apparently, the vessel ultimately reached the Libyan coast.
The Greek ministry of defence confirmed the incident.
Contacted by EURACTIV, EU Spokesperson Peter Stano commented:
“Since the launch of Operation Irini, there were more than 75 occasions when Irini hailed ships and vessels. It was also the case on Wednesday when Irini hailed for inspection a cargo vessel in the high seas off the coast of Libya – following the usual procedures. We are currently conducting further verifications with the competent authorities.”
“ln accordance with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions on the arms embargo on Libya (including resolution 2526 adopted last week on 5 June), the Operation remains in close contact with the Panel of Experts of the United Nations and will report to them accordingly. Again, this is in line with standard practices,” he added.
Stano continued, saying there have also been occasions in which some attempted to break the oil embargo too.
“On other occasions, Operation Irini also collected information about cases involving other actors – including an attempt to violate the oil embargo, which Operation Irini deterred.”
The incident raises a number of issues such as whether Operation Irini can in practice monitor the embargo. According to Kathimerini journal, Turkey appeared to have a total of eight ships in the area on Wednesday while the Operation Irini’s deployed units just one.
France, for instance, has not sent any frigate so far but has stated that its frigates could intervene within 72 hours.