On July 1st, France informed NATO that it is suspending its participation in a naval operation in the Mediterranean after the results of a probe into an incident between French and Turkish warships.
According to the French Armed Forces Ministry, the country’s permanent representative to NATO, Muriel Domenach, sent a letter to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to inform him of the decision.
France said that on June 10th Turkish warships flashed their radar lights three times at the Courbet and that Turkish sailors had also put on bullet-proof vests and stood behind their light weapons during the incident.
Turkey has dismissed the French claims as “groundless”.
Stoltenberg said NATO officials were looking into the incident, adding: “Those two NATO allies have totally different views on what actually happened.”
According to him, however, it is obvious “that we need to support the UN efforts to find a politically negotiated solution to the conflict in Libya,” he added.
In relation to the investigation into the incident, an official from the French Armed Forces Ministry said a letter had been sent to NATO on Tuesday outlining four demands:
- a reaffirmation by alliance members of their commitment to respecting the embargo;
- ensuring NATO call signals were not used by countries during national missions;
- better coordination between NATO and EU missions enforcing the embargo;
- putting in place mechanisms to avoid similar incidents in the future.
“While waiting to move ahead on these demands, we have decided to temporarily withdraw our assets from Operation Sea Guardian,” the official said.” It doesn’t make sense to keep our assets … with allies who do not respect the embargo.”
France, following the incident with Turkey has been vocal in its opposition of Ankara’s operation in Libya, which supports the Government of National Accord (GNA) against Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).
“It does not seem to us healthy to maintain our assets in an operation supposed, among its various tasks, to control an embargo alongside allies who do not respect it,” an anonymous French official told media on July 1st.
Paris demands in particular “that allies solemnly reaffirm their attachment and their commitment to the respect of the embargo” on weapons to Libya, the official added.
France’s foreign minister said European Union foreign ministers would meet on July 13th to discuss Turkey, adding that new sanctions on Ankara could be considered.
“At our request there will be a meeting of EU foreign ministers on July 13 solely on the Turkish question,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told a parliamentary hearing.
“Sanctions have already been taken on Turkey by the EU over Turkey’s drilling in the Cyprus economic zone. Other sanctions may be envisaged,” he added.
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