France has notified NATO command that its military is suspending involvement in an ongoing Mediterranean operation called Sea Guardian in protest of a June 10 incident wherein Turkish warships off Libya’s coast “engaged” a French frigate via radar. This means the Turkish ship essentially had missile lock on the NATO allied ship.
The AP detailed in the days after the hostile encounter between two NATO members that “the frigate Courbet was ‘lit up’ three times by Turkish naval targeting radar when it tried to approach a Turkish civilian ship suspected of involvement in arms trafficking.” The Turkish military ships were allegedly escorting the smaller civilian ship, suspected by the French of illegal gun-running.
The French vessel was then forced to back off as it tracked a civilian Turkish vessel suspected of smuggling arms into Tripoli amid a blanket UN arms embargo. The two sides have since blamed the other for the act of “aggression”.
Paris had declared it a “hostile act” – something which Ankara has rejected. The French Foreign Ministry further accused the Turkish ships of “extremely aggressive” intervention against a NATO ally.
Ironically, Operation Sea Guardian is meant to enforce the arms embargo on Libya — but Turkey allegedly intervened against the French ship to thwart inspecting and seizing weapons in transit. Needless to say the incident highlights severe cracks in the NATO alliance.
The incident came also amid worsening relations between Turkey and France over Turkey’s increased “adventurism” of late in defending Tripoli against Haftar forces, which has involved drones, aircraft, and even sending Turkish national troops to the region along with mercenaries from Syria.
On Wednesday France reportedly sent a formal letter to NATO command in Brussels informing the alliance that it is effectively suspending support for the Mediterranean operation until necessary “clarifications” are made as a result on the NATO investigation into the incident.
Specifically, the letter addressed to NATO’s Secretary-General makes “four demands to clarify the role of the Sea Guardian operation, including its cooperation with an EU mission that is enforcing a UN arms embargo to Libya.”
Though an arms embargo has been in effect on Libya since last year, the multiple players supporting opposing sides in the proxy war have essentially treated in as a joke. Since the UN declaration, more arms than ever have poured into the conflict, as well as mercenaries.
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