Turkey Plays Chicken Game Versus EU Operation IRINI

Turkey Plays Chicken Game Versus EU Operation IRINI

The Cirkin freighter headed to Misurata, in Libya, is at the center of an arm-wrestling between Ankara and the command of Operation Irini in the eastern Mediterranean, presently led by Italy.

The freighter is built in Turkey and registered in Tanzania. In the past, according to several analysts, it had already been under observation in the Black Sea for suspicious transfers of goods.

On May 28, the Cirkin left Haydarpasa in Turkey (near a Turkish military base). The Turkish ship sailed the Mediterranean unobstructed heading to Misurata in Libya, and successfully evaded an Italian vessel deployed from mid-2019 to patrol the area to protect Italian national interests.

Using Open Source Intelligence, a community of bloggers usually tracked the cargo route, and it is not yet clear whether, during the last trip, which began from Istanbul on June 7 with an official destination at Gabes, in Tunisia, the cargo was heading to Libya.

To prevent any attempt to reach a Libyan harbor, IRINI HQ, who is responsible for implementing the arms embargo to Libya, dispatched the Greek frigate Spetsai to perform an inspection at sea. The frigate, according to the Greek CNN, flown a military helicopter, which, however, had to return to the base after a warning from Ankara, which escorted the cargo with three frigates: “The ship is under Turkish protection”, would have said Ankara. As a result, IRINI HQ ordered to halt the monitoring operation.

The move can be planned as a harsh reply to the joint statement recently released by the High Representative of the EU and the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and Italy. On June 9, 2020, they, “urged all Libyan and International parties to effectively and immediately stop all military operations and engage constructively in the 5+5 negotiations, based upon the draft agreement of 23 February, and within the framework of the 5+5 joint military committee, approved in Cairo on 6 June.

The EU joint declaration asked all parties involved in the Libyan crisis to accept “the withdrawal of all foreign forces, mercenaries and military equipment supplied in violation of the UN arms embargo from all regions of Libya, and to engage constructively in all strands of the UN-led intra-Libyan dialogue in order to pave the way for a comprehensive political agreement in accordance with the parameters agreed upon in Berlin”.

Patently, Turkish president Erdogan is not interested in halting its active support to the GNA Army when it is apparently going to disband general Haftar’s LNA forces, to gain a diplomatic advantage versus the European Union member states, whose opinion toward the two Libyan contenders has always been vague and inconstant.

Will the advantages arising from the support to the probable winner be worth the risks of playing a chicken game versus the European Union?

George Costa

George Costa is a reporter specialized in defence and security systems. He covers international defence and security issues, such as international conflicts, WMD proliferation, and cybersecurity, as well as news reporting on developments in the global defence community.