A few days after France accused Turkish warships of being aggressive towards its own ship, it has decided to pull out of a NATO naval operation in the Mediterranean Sea.
“I would like to pause for a moment on the very worrying behavior of Turkey. France and Turkey are both participating in the NATO Sea Guardian maritime security operation in the eastern Mediterranean, of which one of the missions is to provide maritime surveillance against trafficking,” Florence Parly, French Minister of Armed Forces said during hearing at the EU’s Security and Defense Subcommittee on July 2.
“This came after the United Nations imposed an embargo on arms supplies to Libya. Fifteen days ago, when a French ship was controlling a suspicious cargo ship from Turkey, Turkish frigates interfered and one of them, as we say in military language, illuminated the French ship with its fire control radar. It is an aggressive and unworthy act for a NATO ally,” Parly added.
On June 17, the Turkish navy allegedly “harassed” Courbet, a French battleship, after it carried out inspection of Turkey's Tanzanian-flagged Cirkin cargo ship, suspecting it to be smuggling arms into Libya. Paris claims Courbet was targeted three times by the Turkish vessel’s fire control radars.
The Courbet was part of NATO’s Sea Guardian operation.
Turkey had repulsed French allegations. "It is completely untrue. If one takes into account that the French warship was refuelled by our side before the alleged incident, it is clear how inappropriate and intentional the allegation is," a senior Turkish military official was quoted as saying by local media.
France has now sent a letter to NATO 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; and putting in place mechanisms to avoid similar incidents in the future.