Turkey said targeting its national interests in Libya would have serious repercussions, as it responded to Libyan rebel forces intercepting a Turkish cargo ship earlier this week.
“We remind that there will be grave consequences, and we will consider these elements as legitimate targets in case Turkish interests are targeted in Libya,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Jamaican-flagged ship Mabrooka, operated by a Turkish company, was commandeered along with its Turkish crew by the Libyan National Army (LNA) near the eastern port of Derna on Monday. The LNA is led by rebel general Khalifa Haftar.
“Steps for ensuring resumption of the planned journey of the vessel must be taken immediately,” the Foreign Ministry said.
The LNA said the ship entered a prohibited area and violated maritime laws, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency. The Mabrooka was carrying medical supplies and no weapons were found on board, it said.
“Haftar and his militia continue their aggressive attitude even at a period when there is progress in the U.N.-led political process among our Libyan brothers and sisters,” the ministry said.
The Turkish government supports the U.N.-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in the capital Tripoli with arms and military know-how in its conflict with Haftar’s LNA. The LNA is backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia, among others.
Last month, a German warship partaking in Operation Irini, a European Union maritime initiative enforcing a U.N. arms embargo on Libya, attempted to search a Turkish-flagged cargo ship bound for the North African country. Turkey condemned the move as illegal.