The European Commission on Tuesday defended a German navy search of a Turkish-flagged cargo vessel, saying it was conducted properly under an EU mission enforcing an arms embargo on Libya.
The boarding of the container ship, MV Roseline A, on Sunday by a team from a German frigate operating under the EU's Operation Irini, raised the hackles of Turkey, which called it an "unlawful intervention".
A Commission spokesman said in a statement that the German team acted "in accordance with internationally agreed procedures including NATO procedures" in line with Operation Irini's mandate, which is backed by UN Security Council resolutions.
Both Germany and Turkey are part of NATO, though Turkey has been causing friction with its European partners in a number of areas, including gas exploration forays it is making in the territorial waters of Greece and Cyprus.
The Commission statement said Operation Irini notified Turkey of the intention to board the cargo ship, then gave it five hours to respond before the German personnel boarded.
"The inspection was suspended later on, when Turkey formally and with delay notified Operation Irini of its refusal to grant the permission to inspect the vessel. Until then, the inspection had found no evidence of illicit material on board and the vessel was cleared to pursue its route," the statement said.
It declared that "Operation Irini's boarding team acted with the highest degree of professionalism and no incident was registered throughout the action".
Turkey on Monday summoned European diplomats based in Ankara to protest the inspection.
Libya has endured almost a decade of violence since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Turkey backs the Government of National Accord (GNA) in western Libya and views the EU mission as biased in favour of the LNA, commanded by Khalifa Haftar -- backed by the United Arab Emirates as well as Russia and France.