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Libya forces ship with Turkish crew into port as Greece slams sea deal

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Libya forces ship with Turkish crew into port as Greece slams sea deal
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Libyan forces in the country's east say they have seized a ship with Turkish crew members amid tensions in the eastern Mediterranean over a contentious maritime border deal between Ankara and rival Libyan groups.

Turkey has promised enhanced military support to Libya's U.N.-supported government, based in Tripoli.

In Libya's protracted conflict, the UN-backed administration is a bitter rival to the east-based one. Libya is divided between the two sides, each supported by an array of militias and foreign governments.

In a statement late Saturday, the self-styled Libyan National Army — which backs the east-based administration — said a vessel flying a Grenada flag with several Turkish crew members had been forcibly taken into a Libyan port for inspection. However, it remained unclear if the move was indeed a seizure.

'Threat' to entire region

Turkey and Libya’s Tripoli-based government signed a maritime agreement last month, drawing international outrage and concern from several Mediterranean countries. The deal gives Turkey access to a contested economic zone across the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

An infuriated Greece, a longtime rival of Turkey, expelled Libya's ambassador over the deal.

On Sunday, Greek foreign minister Nikos Dendias visited Benghazi, the seat of the east-based administration.

A statement from the meeting quoted Dendias as criticizing the secuirity deal as a “threat to the unity of Libya and to the entire region.”

Turkish 'provocation'

A senior lawmaker in the Benghazi parliament told The Associated Press that the Turkish agreements are “a provocation” to neighboring Arab and European countries.

“This will prolong the conflict and threaten North African nations ... to spread chaos in the region," said Talal Al-Mihoub, chairman of the parliament's defense and national security committee.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey could send troops to Libya if the Tripoli government formally asked. "If needed, we will increase the military aspect of our support for Libya," Erdogan declared again on Sunday.

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