France presses allies for Nato censure of Turkey over Mediterranean naval incident
Paris says frigate 'Courbet' was targeted three times by Turkish naval radar during confrontation
Paris launched a diplomatic campaign for Nato to censure Ankara over accusations that Turkish warships harassed a French vessel in the Mediterranean.
Relations between the two Nato members, already suffering after France’s criticism of Turkish actions in Syria, reached a new low after the June 10 incident.
Paris said the frigate Courbet was hit three times by Turkish naval radar during a hostile interaction.
Turkey denied harassing the Courbet as the French vessel tried to approach a civilian Turkish ship suspected of trying to break Libya’s long-standing arms embargo.
French President Emmanuel Macron refused to back down over the incident, and made his fury plain.
Elysee officials said Nato must not bury its head in the sand while Turkey neutralises its operations.
French officials lobbied allies behind the scenes for support to take a stance against Ankara.
Answering questions in the French Senate, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the incident in the Eastern Mediterranean “absolutely scandalous” and a “serious act”.
Mr Le Drian said the Courbet had been engaged in a Nato mission at the time.
He also called on the EU to have a serious discussion about its future relationship with Turkey.
“France considers it essential that the EU very quickly opens a substantive discussion, without taboo, without naivety on the prospects for the future relationship of the EU with Ankara and that the EU firmly defends its own interests because it has the means,” Mr Le Drian said.
The EU has sought to secure Nato support for its own naval mission, Operation Irini, to impose the UN weapons embargo on Libya, but Turkey would be likely to block any such moves.
The UAE publicly backed France in the ongoing standoff with Turkey.
“The UAE affirms its solidarity with France in the face of the ongoing statements and hostilities from Turkey,” Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said on Twitter.
“We strongly condemn its dangerous behaviour in targeting a French navy ship as part of a Nato mission to impose an arms embargo approved by the United Nations earlier this month.”
Nato launched an investigation into the incident after French Defence Minister Florence Parly was reported to have made her condemnation clear to Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a video conference meeting this month.
“We cannot accept that an ally behaves like this, does this against a Nato ship under Nato command leading a Nato mission,” Ms Parly said.
A Nato spokesman confirmed to The National that the alliance’s investigation into the altercation in the Eastern Mediterranean was continuing and referred to Mr Stoltenberg’s previous statements on the issue.
“We have made sure that Nato military authorities are investigating the incident to bring full clarity into what happened,” Mr Stoltenberg said after chairing a video meeting of Nato defence ministers last week.
“I think that’s the best way now to deal with that – clarify what actually happened.”
Updated: June 26, 2020 01:29 PM