Turkish minister says probing smuggled arms on Libya visit

Tripoli:Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced during a visit to Libya Saturday an investigation into a shipment of arms smuggled from his country to the conflict-hit North African nation.

Libyan officials on Thursday said two containers of arms and munitions disguised as construction materials had been seized at the western port of Khoms.

Rival administrations in Libya demanded an explanation as the UN mission in the country called the reports of the large shipment “extremely disconcerting” and said it expected experts from the world body to investigate.

“We are going to take firm measures on this subject,” Cavusoglu said in translated comments at a press conference with his Libyan counterpart in Tripoli.

“We are starting an investigation to determine how the arms were loaded into containers and how they entered Libya.”

Libya has been subject to a UN arms embargo since it plunged into chaos amid the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

The country is divided between an internationally backed government based in Tripoli and a rival authority under strongman Khalifa Haftar in the east.

UN experts have documented deliveries of weapons from destinations including Sudan, Egypt, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates despite the ban on weapons imports.

The head of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, Fayez al-Sarraj, expressed his “profound concern” over the latest shipment in a statement after meeting Cavusoglu.

The statement said Turkey had denied any official links to delivery and said the two sides would probe the matter jointly.

The Haftar camp regularly accuses Turkey and Qatar of militarily and financially backing his rivals, including Islamists.

Cavusoglu accused unnamed Western and Arab countries of sending “tanks, missiles, and drones” to Libya, in apparent reference to alleged outside support for Haftar.