Turkey seeks Italy’s support on Libya

Turkish FM criticises EU's Operation Irini aimed at halting arms shipments to Libya as "not objective", one day after NATO said it would probe naval incident with French ship.

ANKARA - 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, thousands of mercenaries from Syria 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.

Cavusoglu said that Turkey would work together with Italy to achieve stable peace and a political process that will yield results in Libya.

The Turkish FM also said Turkey wanted to work together with Italy on meeting Libya's energy needs, such as electricity.

The two countries could also cooperate in the eastern Mediterranean, where Ankara is at odds with Greece and other regional actors over hydrocarbon resources, 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 Moamer Kadhafi.

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.