EU puts sanctions on Turkish company for breaching UN arms embargo on Libya​​​​​​​

Pressure for sanctions on Turkey sees Athens and Ankara restart talks on Mediterranean

FILE - In this June 17, 2020, file photo, Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, left, and Muhammed Tahir Siyala, Foreign Minister of Libya's internationally-recognized government, speak at the airport, in Tripoli, Libya. Libya’s eastern-based forces have lost the chance to engage in a political solution to the North African country’s conflict, Turkey's foreign minister said Saturday, June 20, 2020. (Fatih Aktas/Turkish Foreign Ministry via AP, Pool, File)
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The EU has imposed sanctions on a Turkish company for breaching a UN arms embargo on Libya over its support for the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord.

Avrasya Shipping operates a vessel called the Cirkin,  which was linked to the transport of military material to Libya in May and June 2020, the EU said.

The Cirkin was at the centre of a dispute in June when a French ship wanted to check if the Turkish vessel was smuggling weapons into Libya.

France accused Turkish frigates of an aggressive intervention in response.

It said the Cirkin  switched off its tracking system, hid its ID number and refused to say where it was going. Turkey denied the claims.

“The EU imposes restrictive measures on persons and entities whose actions threaten the peace and security of Libya or obstruct the successful completion of its political transition,” the bloc said.

“The EU has repeatedly called on all parties to respect human rights and international law and is committed to holding anyone violating them accountable.

"The EU is also determined to see the UN arms embargo in Libya fully respected."

The move came as a high-level meeting in Brussels between EU foreign ministers gets under way and will freeze any assets Avrasya Shipping holds in its member states.

It will cut them off from EU financial markets and bar them from doing business with anyone in the bloc.

Turkish intervention has sought to push back the forces of the Libya National Army under Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

The Turkish government this year flew in troops and mercenaries  from Syrian extremist groups to the Libyan front-line.

Ankara's interference has been widely condemned by the international community.

Senior Turkish and GNA Libyan officials have made regular visits to each other’s countries and Turkey has begun strengthening Al Watiya airbase in western Libya.

GNA head Fayez Al Sarraj announced last week that he would step down from his role.

Turkey’s presidential spokesman said Ankara would continue its support for the Tripoli-based government.

It is expected that a delegation of Turkish officials will arrive in the Libyan capital in coming days.

The EU has a naval mission operating off Libya, which has been given the job of policing the embargo and collecting intelligence on those breaking it.

But Monday's measures are the bloc's first independent sanctions related to the conflict.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said he was cautiously optimistic about Libya and the prospect of progress in talks.

"There is a positive momentum. There is a ceasefire and we need to use it," Mr Borrell said.

"We will talk about that. I will debrief the Council about my visit to Libya, and my outreach to the Egyptian government regarding Libya and how can we support the peace efforts.

"There are some concrete decisions regarding our sanctions list but I will talk about it in our afternoon press conference."

Kazakh and Jordanian companies were also placed under sanctions, as was Libyan Moussa Diab, who is accused of serious human rights abuses including human trafficking and kidnapping, raping and killing migrants and refugees.

Mahmoud Al Werfalli, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, was also expected to be proscribed by the EU.

Meanwhile, a Greek official said Athens could revive talks on long-standing maritime disputes after a tense standoff with Turkey over rights to exploit offshore natural gas deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean.

“We are close to restarting the exploratory talks," Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said.

"There will be an announcement when this is finalised but the atmosphere is good.”