France-Turkey tensions mount after NATO naval incident – Reuters Canada

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PARIS/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – For France, it was the closing straw. For Turkey, it was a misunderstanding. For NATO, it could be a turning issue.

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FILE Picture: French President Emmanuel Macron (L) shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of a bilateral assembly on the sidelines of a North Atlantic Treaty Corporation (NATO) summit in Brussels, Belgium July twelve, 2018. Ludovic Marin/Pool through REUTERS/File Image

The incident unfolded promptly in the eastern Mediterranean on June 10, when a French frigate underneath NATO command tried out to inspect a Tanzanian-flagged cargo ship suspected of smuggling arms to Libya in violation of a U.N. embargo.

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The French armed forces ministry, speaking on behalf of the authorities, mentioned the frigate was harassed by 3 Turkish navy vessels escorting the cargo ship. A Turkish ship flashed its radar lights and its crew set on bulletproof vests and stood powering their light-weight weapons, it mentioned.

Turkey disputes this. It denies trafficking arms to Libya and claims the cargo ship, the Cirkin, was carrying humanitarian aid. It has accused the French navy of aggression.

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Turkey’s ambassador to France, Ismail Hakkı Musa, said on July one the three Turkish warships had been encouraging NATO enforce the U.N. arms embargo.

NATO ordered an investigation, but its contents are categorized and NATO has not commented on its consequence. Two European diplomats explained to Reuters that France despatched a letter to NATO Secretary-Basic Jens Stoltenberg in early July saying the report did not “correctly set up the facts.”

The U.S. Pentagon declined to remark on the incident.

For France, the incident highlights what numerous NATO allies see as President Tayyip Erdogan’s inclination to act versus the Western alliance’s pursuits and values.

FRACTURES

Soon after a series of disagreements, from Turkey’s obtain of weapons from Russia to gasoline drilling operations close to Cyprus, France concluded that suspicions of Turkish arms smuggling to Libya were being as well critical to ignore, four NATO diplomats and officials told Reuters.

France has suspended its participation in NATO’s Mediterranean mission, Sea Guardian, in its place offering its assets to a European Union mission that is upholding the U.N. arms embargo but does not require Turkish ships, diplomats claimed.

“What do you do when you have a NATO surveillance mission … and one of those people in the alliance is the just one doing the trafficking, when indicating it is utilizing the (U.N.)embargo?” stated an formal from France’s armed forces ministry, requesting anonymity since of the sensitivity of the make any difference.

The United States, annoyed by Turkey’s buy of Russian S-four hundred missiles and its armed service operations in Syria, has been seeking to calm the tensions in NATO, the diplomats explained.

Last Oct, U.S. Secretary of Protection Mark Esper said Turkey was “going in the improper direction”. While U.S. President Donald Trump enjoys a close romantic relationship with Erdogan, he urged Turkey in Could to help de-escalate the Libyan conflict.

The Pentagon “strives to protect our relationship with Turkey when encouraging the Turkish governing administration to pursue far more constructive procedures pertaining to the S-four hundred and other spots of disagreement,” said U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Campbell, a Pentagon spokesman.

FRENCH Calls for

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly explained to the European Parliament on July 2 that NATO have to make Ankara realise it simply cannot “violate” NATO procedures. But French diplomats also say Paris is not looking to expel Turkey, and NATO has no official mechanism to punish or expel members.

Nonetheless, NATO could threaten to take out property from Turkey, these types of as a radar, Patriot missiles or NATO AWACS aircraft.

French Overseas Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian wishes EU overseas ministers to consider new sanctions on Ankara for the duration of a video assembly on July thirteen.

“The most important difficulty for Europe is Russia. The ambivalence of Turkey, with 1 foot in each and every camp, is the troubling issue,” mentioned Marc Pierini, a previous EU ambassador to Turkey with the Carnegie Europe feel tank.

Turkey has the 2nd-biggest military services in NATO and provides the alliance a strategic existence, notably on the Black and Mediterranean seas.

“Imagine NATO devoid of Turkey! You would have no NATO,” ambassador Musa mentioned.

France created four concrete demands of NATO in its July letter to Stoltenberg, the contents of which have been laid out to Reuters.

It would like all thirty allies to reaffirm commitment to respecting the U.N. arms embargo on Libya, to assure NATO alerts are not made use of all through national missions, to strengthen coordination among the NATO and EU missions in the Mediterranean, and to keep away from equivalent incidents in the foreseeable future.

At the previous NATO defence ministers’ assembly in late June, via movie website link, eight international locations which include Germany, Italy and Spain backed seeking a extra cooperative strategy from Turkey.

Slideshow(two Visuals)

French diplomats cite Turkey signing off on a NATO defence plan for the Baltics and Poland late last thirty day period, immediately after keeping it up for months, as a to start with indication of success.

But there is a possibility of a prolonged-time period rift at NATO if Erdogan does not change course, analysts say.

“Turkey considers itself massive ample now to be unbiased from all sides,” Pierini stated.

Further reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington, Enhancing by Frances Kerry and Timothy Heritage

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