Forces loyal to Libyan renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar have towed a Grenada-flagged ship with Turkish crew off the Libyan coast, a spokesman said.
Saturday’s move came hours after the Turkish Parliament approved a security and military cooperation deal with Libya.
A naval combat vessel belonging to Haftar’s self-styled eastern Libyan National Army (LNA) stopped the ship in Libyan territorial waters off the eastern city of Derna and towed it to Ras El Hilal port “for inspection and to verify its cargo”, LNA spokesperson Ahmed Mismari said without giving further details.
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The eastern forces provided Reuters News Agency with a video that shows Libyan navy forces stopping the ship and questioning three crew members. They also published copies of passports of three Turkish nationals.
A Turkish foreign ministry spokesperson told Al Jazeera the ship developed “technical problems” and could not dock properly, leading the ship to ask for help from Libya’s coastguards.
“The ship was taken to have its cargo checked,” Hami Akosy said, confirming that three Turkish nationals were onboard.
It was not immediately clear what the ship was carrying.
On Saturday, Ankara signed the security and military agreement with the United Nations-recognised Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA). The agreement came just weeks after concluding a controversial deal on maritime jurisdiction.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey could deploy troops to Libya in support of the GNA, but no request has been made.
Ankara has sent military supplies to Libya in violation of a UN arms embargo, according to a report by UN experts seen by Reuters last month.
Turkey has been backing the GNA, led by Fayez al-Sarraj, as it fights off a months-long offensive by Haftar’s forces.