German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over search

FILE - In this Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019 file photo German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp Karrenbauer, front right, arrives for a meeting of NATO defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. Germany's defense minister on Tuesday rejected Turkish complaints over the search of a Turkish freighter in the Mediterranean Sea by a German frigate participating in a European mission, insisting that German sailors behaved correctly. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, file)
FILE - In this Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019 file photo German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp Karrenbauer, front right, arrives for a meeting of NATO defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. Germany's defense minister on Tuesday rejected Turkish complaints over the search of a Turkish freighter in the Mediterranean Sea by a German frigate participating in a European mission, insisting that German sailors behaved correctly. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, file) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

BERLIN – Germany's defense minister on Tuesday rejected Turkey's complaints over the search of a Turkish freighter in the Mediterranean Sea by a German frigate participating in a European mission, insisting that German sailors acted correctly.

Sunday's incident prompted Turkey to summon diplomats representing the European Union, Germany and Italy and assert that the Libya-bound freighter Rosaline-A was subjected to an “illegal” search by personnel from the German frigate Hamburg. The German ship is part of the European Union's Irini naval mission, which is enforcing an arms embargo against Libya.

German officials say that the order to board the ship came from Irini’s headquarters in Rome and that Turkey objected while the team was on board. The search was then ended.

Turkey says the search was “unauthorized and conducted by force” and insisted that its objections prior to the search were ignored.

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer backed the German crew's actions.

“It is important to me to make really clear that the Bundeswehr soldiers behaved completely correctly,” she said during an appearance in Berlin. “They did what is asked of them in the framework of the European Irini mandate.”

“That there is this debate with the Turkish side points to one of the fundamental problems of this European mission,” Kramp-Karrenbauer added, without elaborating. “But it is very important to me to say clearly here that there are no grounds for these accusations that are now being made against the soldiers.”

This was the second incident between Turkey and naval forces from a NATO ally enforcing an arms blockade against Libya.