Turkey says ship seized by Greece had ‘legal arms’
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said that a ship seized off the island of Crete by Greek security forces en route from Turkey to Libya was registered to a Greek company and was carrying “legal arms” to Sudanese police.
Bilgic stated that the captured “MV Haddad-1” is a Bolivia-flagged cargo vessel operated by Delta Sea Maritime which has a registration record in the Greek port city of Piraeus.
Greek local media outlets have reported that all crew members of the ship were arrested after a joint raid on Tuesday by the Greek Coast Guard and special forces on board the Haddad 1, following a tip off. The vessel reportedly has a seven-membered crew consisting of Syrian, Egyptian, and Indian nationals.
Bilgic said that the vessel first departed from the port city of Famagusta in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and passed through the Egyptian port of Alexandria, reaching the Turkish port of Iskenderun on Aug. 25.
He also stated that the ship left the Turkish port on Aug. 29, with Misrata and Tobruk in Libya being the next ports of call, and was due to go back to Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, according to its own destination.
Twelve containers were loaded on the vessel in Alexandria and three containers in Iskenderun, Bilgic informed.
Reuters reported, the Greek Coast Guard officials said that the vessel “was carrying arms without legal documentation.” The Greek media claimed that the official documents of the vessel indicated that the Haddad 1, having a capacity of 1,400 tonnes, should have been carrying plastic, not weapons and explosives.
However, the Turkish foreign ministry has denied the allegations that the weapons on the ship had not been undeclared or unregistered.
Bilgic said, “according to the customs declaration, it is understood that the ship was loaded with a cement mix in an intention to be shipped to Libya, 492,000 handgun bullets legally exported to the Sudanese police department being delivered at the port of Beirut, 4,900 ungrooved hunting rifles and straw bed stands exported to Lebanon,” Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported.
“If investigations by the Greek authorities show that the consignment is going to receivers other than those stated in the documentation, and if that is shared with us, naturally measures could be taken,” Bilgic added, according to Reuters.
The United Nations previously declared an arms embargo, banning any weapons shipments into Libya which currently has two declared governments in its territories.
Libya is currently divided into two parliaments with their own armed forces in the ongoing Libyan Civil War which started in 2014.
The first one is the General National Council (GNC), which is based in the capital of Tripoli, which was founded with the help of the United States and France following the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
The second is House of Representatives, operating from the Libyan border city of Tobruk since June 2014, which was formed following armed uprisings by militant groups loyal to the renegade general Khalifa Hafter.
Hafter was appointed commander of the armed forces of the Tobruk government on March 2, 2015.