Paris/Brussels, 1 July 2020 (dpa/MIA) – France is to temporarily withdraw from a NATO mission in the Mediterranean Sea after a confrontation with fellow alliance member Turkey last month, a military source in Paris confirmed on Wednesday.
France claims that a Turkish vessel turned its fire guidance radar onto a French ship that was trying to stop a cargo ship suspected of violating a UN arms embargo on Libya. Turkey denies that.
Paris and Ankara are at loggerheads over Libya, where Turkey is supporting the weak, internationally recognized government against eastern Libyan forces backed by Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
France denies allegations from the Tripoli government that it too is on the side of eastern Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar, but it has been far more critical of Turkey than of Haftar’s allies.
France complained to NATO over the naval incident last month, considering it an act of aggression, but appears to have received little backing. The French military source said eight European members of the 30-strong alliance supported its position.
NATO has carried out an internal investigation into the incident, but the French source, who declined to give any details about the outcome due to military secrecy, argued that the alliance had not had the time or means to investigate it fully.
According to dpa’s information, that investigation is now to be discussed promptly within the alliance.
The French military source said it “doesn’t seem healthy” to keep participating in NATO’s Operation Sea Guardian with allies “who do not respect the embargo.”