NEWS

Turkey’s failed bid to break Libya embargo sparks tension

VASSILIS NEDOS

TAGS: Turkey, Security, Defense

There was no letup in the tension in the Aegean Sea Thursday as Turkish fighter jets conducted overflights above the islands of Chios, Oinousses, Panagia and Lesvos.

Similarly, on Wednesday, Turkish jets flew over Lesvos and the Evros land border.

Athens views Turkey’s hostile behavior not just as part of a plan by Ankara to change the status quo in the Aegean, but also as a reaction by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government in response to its failures in Syria and Libya, as well as its ill-fated strategy regarding the migration issue.

The spike in aggressive Turkish moves could also be linked to an incident that took place in the Mediterranean a few days ago, when, according to reliable sources, a Turkish cargo ship that had set sail from Istanbul en route to Libya was forced to change its course after being identified as suspicious by the French frigate Provence, which is operating in the area as part of NATO’s Sea Guardian operation to prevent violations of the arms embargo on the North African country. The operation stipulates that NATO forces can check ships for possible violations of the embargo.

The same sources said that the Turkish vessel was believed to be carrying Turkish anti-aircraft systems to reinforce the forces of Fayez al-Sharaj that are under siege in Tripoli.

Meanwhile, to the end of stopping arms heading to warring factions in Libya, the European Union is to launch a new Mediterranean naval and air mission in April, according to EU diplomats Thursday. Greece for its part has reportedly agreed to take in any migrants rescued at sea.

The decision came amid growing concerns among senior EU officials, including EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, regarding the risk the bloc could lose its relevance in the region, potentially to the benefit of Turkey and Russia, if it failed to act decisively.

“Greece has allowed disembarkation [of rescued migrants] in its ports,” said an EU diplomat involved in the negotiations, according to a report by Reuters. 

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