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Eastern Libyan force says it intercepted Turkish ship

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BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) -Eastern-based Libyan forces have intercepted a Turkish ship under a Jamaican flag heading to the port of Misrata in western Libya, their spokesman said on Monday, a possible new flashpoint in the conflict after weeks of truce. 

Turkey is the main foreign backer of the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), in the west, which has for years been fighting the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA).

LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari added that the commercial cargo ship, Mabrouka, had 17 crew, including nine Turkish nationals, and containers that had not yet been inspected. LNA naval forces stopped it near the eastern port of Derna, he said. 

A spokesperson for Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not immediately available to comment. 

The GNA and LNA signed a ceasefire deal in October and the United Nations has been pushing a political dialogue aimed at elections next year as a solution to Libya’s long-running conflict. 

But both sides have stopped short of withdrawing forces from the front line, as demanded by the truce, while an incident in southern Libya on Sunday, when LNA forces seized a military camp, has further tested the agreement. 

Earlier on Monday, Mismari accused Turkey of continuing to supply arms and fighters to the GNA. The LNA is backed by Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. 

A panel of U.N. experts has cited the foreign supporters of both sides as breaching an arms embargo on Libya.

(Reporting by Ayman al-Warfali in Benghazi, additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara, writing by Angus McDowall in TunisEditing by Chris Reese and Nick Macfie)

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