Turkey prevented German forces belonging to a European Union military mission carrying out a full search of a Turkish cargo ship that they suspected of taking weapons to Libya, both countries confirmed on Monday.
Soldiers from the frigate Hamburg boarded the Turkish freighter, the Rosaline A, overnight, but had to abandon checks and withdraw after Turkey protested to the EU mission, the German defence ministry said.
The frigate was operating in the Mediterranean as part of the EU’s Irini mission, which aims to stop arms reaching the warring factions in Libya.
“By the time the soldiers left the ship, they had not found anything suspicious,” a German defence ministry spokesman said.
Turkish security sources said the Rosalina-A was carrying various materials such as food and paint, and that the search team had violated international law by not waiting for permission from Turkey.
It said the soldiers had found nothing despite spending the entire night opening containers on the ship.
“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 source 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.
He said the Hamburg had followed standard procedure by waiting four hours for approval from the flag country, and then boarding. Later, once the objection arrived, they withdrew.
“All procedures were followed correctly,” a German foreign ministry spokeswoman said.
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.