Two Turkish citizens have been detained by the Libyan National Army in Libya on suspicion of being spies, but Turkish authorities have denied the allegations, daily Haberturk reported on Wednesday.
Volkan Altinok and Mehmet Demir, who worked in a restaurant in the capital of Tripoli, have been in detention since April 12 in a prison near Benghazi, led by forces of the eastern military commander, Khalifa Haftar.
According to pro-Haftar media, the two Turkish citizens were accused of spying, but Turkey has rejected the allegation, calling it “social media delirium”.
Consignment of arms allegations
Similarly, Turkey denied allegations of illicit flow of weapons and ammunition to Islamist forces in Libya after the seizure of two containers holding a large cache of weapons and ammunition on December 18, 2018.
The containers were intercepted by customs at Al-Khomsal port in a container ship, BF ESPERANZA, en route from Turkey, reinforcing longstanding concerns over Ankara’s backing of Islamist groups that worsen Libya’s instability. A day earlier, Libyan officials seized another container of 2.5 million Turkish-made bullets at the same port.
The United Nations (UN) Support Mission in Libya condemned the shipments of arms to Libya, saying it was “extremely disconcerting,”as it violates the UN Security Council weapons embargo placed on Libya at the start of the civil war in 2011.
Libya, an oil-rich country, has been in chaos for eight years since the fall of the former Libyan leader, Muammar Qaddafi, in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011.
Since 2014, the country has been split between rival governments and military factions based in the east and the west.
Based in the capital of Tripoli, the Government of National Accord – Libya’s internationally recognized government that is led by Fayez al Sarraj – has been recognized by the UN Tobruk-based government (Libyan National Army), led by General Khalifa Haftar, as the de facto ruler of eastern Libya. Turkey backs Libya’s National Accord government.
Both al Qaeda and Islamic State (ISIS) are also active between the borders of Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria. Weapons reaching the region, mostly from the Mediterranean, often find their way to jihadist organizations.
According to a September 2018 report by the UN Panel of Experts, Turkey is one of the countries involved in supplying arms shipment to rival factions in Libya, violating the UN arms embargo.
According to Zvi Mazel, former Israeli ambassador to Egypt, Romania, and Sweden, and senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Turkey has been siding with Islamic parties led by the Muslim Brotherhood since the fall of Gaddafi. These parties won the first parliamentary elections in 2012. Mazel claims Ankara has maintained its support even when they lost the subsequent elections in 2014.
On December 22, the UN Panel of Experts on Libya was created to investigate the incident. On the same day, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu arrived in Tripoli and met Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, seeking to dismiss the incident.
Cavusoglu denied any involvement in the incident, stating such actions “did not represent the policy or approach of the Turkish state.” Both countries agreed to cooperate in an investigation.