Turkey has slammed the European Union’s Irini Operation in the Mediterranean Sea that aims to enforce the implementation of the U.N.’s arms embargo in Libya as one-sided and in favor of General Khalifa Haftar and suggested a new mechanism under the U.N.
“The Irini Operation is absolutely one-sided. It supports Haftar and punishes the Libyan Government [of National Accord],” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said at a press conference with visiting Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya in Ankara on July 27.
Launched in late March 2020, the Irini operation focuses on the implementation of the U.N. arms embargo through the use of aerial, satellite and maritime assets. The mission includes inspections of vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya suspected to be carrying arms or related material to and from Libya in accordance with resolution 2292 of the U.N. Security Council.
The EU’s mission ignores the arms shipment from Egypt, France and other countries as well as the deployment of militias from Syria and African countries, Çavuşoğlu said, criticizing the EU for not following a balanced and fair policy concerning Libya.
“I do not say this but it is the Libyan government which is the only legitimate government whose demands have never been met,” he said. “What is your Irini Operation about? Its sole mission is to try to inspect our vessels carrying food and equipment, which causes tension. Can it inspect weapons coming from Egypt? Did it inspect planes coming from Syria? From Russia? Can it inspect planes and weapons directly coming from France? From the United Arab Emirates?” he asked.
Çavuşoğlu added that Turkey is ready to cooperate in enforcing the arms embargo in the event that a new mechanism under the U.N. is formed.
Both Çavuşoğlu and Laya have underlined that the best solution to the Libyan question is a political one and diplomacy should work toward a lasting ceasefire.
Hagia Sophia to be protected as humanity’s heritage
On the re-opening of the Hagia Sophia as a mosque, Çavuşoğlu said all the countries should admit that this is a sovereign decision made by the Republic of Turkey, while Turkey respects calls for the protection of the historical site as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.
“We also want that this feature of the Hagia Sophia Mosque to be protected and we are in dialogue with the UNESCO,” he stated, recalling that the 15th-century-old site is still open to the visitors with different faiths.
“Given this, Greece’s reaction is incomprehensible. Lowering their flag… It reacts as if it was Greece’s own property and it’s confiscated. Greece should understand this: Istanbul was conquered in 1453 and the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque in 1462,” he stated.
Turkey will protect the site in the same way since 1453, Çavuşoğlu added.
[HH] Hagia Sophia mosque not ‘common house’
At the press conference, Spanish Foreign Minister Laya expressed Madrid’s opinion that the Hagia Sophia should remain as the common house of humanity without detailing what she meant.
“We have talked about the Hagia Sophia. We, as Spain, want it to continue to serve as a common house. It’s our common heritage,” she said.
In response, Çavuşoğlu said, “If she is saying it should remain open to the visit of everybody as a world cultural heritage, it’s all right. But if she says that the Hagia Sophia should be available for the worship of other faiths, we don’t accept it. It’s a mosque.”