Reuters: Tensions between France and Turkey escalated after NATO naval accident

The incident that occurred between French and Turkish ships in the Mediterranean last month was an important turning point, and a testament to the tendency of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to act against the interests and values of European allies.

A report by "Reuters" monitored the escalation of tension between France and Turkey after the naval incident, noting that the developments in the eastern Mediterranean took place on June 10, when a French frigate under NATO command tried to search a cargo ship flying the Tanzania flag on suspicion of smuggling it. Weapon to Libya in violation of the United Nations arms embargo.

The French Armed Forces Ministry, speaking on behalf of the government, said that three ships of the Turkish Navy accompanying the cargo ship were harassed by the frigate, adding that a Turkish ship lit its radar lights, and its crew wore bullet-proof vests and stood and declared their light weapons.

Turkey rejected this, denied arms smuggling to Libya, and says the "Jerkin" cargo ship was transporting humanitarian aid. And accused the French Navy of engaging in aggressive behavior.

Ismail Hakki Musa, Turkish ambassador to France, claimed on July 1 that the three Turkish warships were helping NATO implement the United Nations arms embargo.

For France, the incident highlights what many NATO members see as a tendency of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to act against the interests and values of European allies.

Four diplomats and officials told the agency that after a series of disputes over facts ranging from Turkey's purchase of weapons from Russia to gas exploration near Cyprus, France concluded that the suspicion of Ankara's arms smuggling to Libya was too dangerous to be ignored.

"What do you do when you have a NATO inspection mission and one of the members is the smuggler, who says he is enforcing the ban?" Said an official from the French armed forces ministry, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Diplomats say the United States, unhappy with Turkey's purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system and its attacks in Syria, is seeking to ease tension within the alliance.

Last October, US Defense Secretary Mark Esber said that Turkey was "heading in the wrong direction", and US President Donald Trump urged Turkey in May to help ease the escalation in the conflict in Libya.

"The Pentagon is" striving to maintain our relations with Turkey, while urging the Turkish government to pursue more constructive policies regarding the S-400 missile system and other causes of discord, "said Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Campbell, a spokesman for the US Department of Defense.

French Defense Minister Florence Barley said on July 2 that the alliance should compel Ankara to realize that it cannot violate the alliance's rules, but French diplomats say France is not looking to expel Turkey, and the alliance does not have an official mechanism to punish or expel members.

However, NATO can threaten Turkey by withdrawing assets from it, such as radar, Patriot missiles, or its early warning and control system aircraft.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian wants his European Union counterparts to consider imposing sanctions on Ankara during a video conference on July 13.

"The main problem for the European Union is Russia and the contradiction of Turkey, which is setting foot in every camp, is the worrying factor," said Marc Perini, a former EU ambassador to Turkey and works at the Carnegie Europe Center.

France requested 4 concrete requests from the alliance in its letter to Stoltenberg in July, according to Reuters, which it says has seen its contents.

It wants the 30-member alliance members to renew their commitment to respect the United Nations arms embargo on Libya, ensuring that alliance signs are not used during national missions, improving coordination between NATO and European Union missions in the Mediterranean, and avoiding similar events in the future.

Analysts say there is a risk of a long-term divide within the alliance if Turkey does not change course.



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