Turkey seeks French apology over ‘false’ claim in naval row
Turkey’s foreign minister on Thursday said France should apologise for making “false claims” about a naval incident in the Mediterranean that has fuelled tensions between the NATO allies.
“When France makes false claims and works against Turkey, that should not be accepted,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Berlin.
“We expect France to apologise unconditionally,” he said, after Paris last month denounced an “extremely aggressive” intervention by Turkish ships against a French navy vessel participating in a NATO Mediterranean maritime security operation.
NATO has opened an investigation into the incident, in which France says one of its ships was subjected to radar targeting by Turkish frigates as it sought to inspect a cargo vessel suspected of carrying arms to Libya.
Turkey has dismissed the allegations as “groundless”, insisting its vessels only observed the warship. It accused the French ship of a “high-speed and dangerous manoeuvre”.
France on Wednesday said it was suspending its participation in the NATO mission, known as Operation Sea Guardian, until its concerns are addressed.
The spat is the latest flare-up between the two countries which have exchanged barbs in recent days over their roles in the conflict in Libya.
Ankara supports the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya against rebel strongman Khalifa Haftar.
France is suspected by analysts of backing Haftar alongside Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates, but insists it is neutral.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed Libya with Qatar’s ruler Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani during a visit to the Gulf nation Thursday, state-run Qatar News Agency reported without giving further details.
Doha is one of Turkey’s closest allies, hosting a key Turkish military base and bolstering Turkey’s economy by boosting its foreign currency reserves by $10 billion in May. It also supports the GNA in Libya.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday accused Turkey of “criminal responsibility” over its involvement in the north African country.
Paris accuses Ankara of shipping arms to Libya in defiance of a UN embargo as well sending in thousands of pro-Turkey Syrian militia fighters.
Turkey hit back the following day, with Cavusoglu blasting France’s “destructive” approach to the Libyan conflict and accusing it of seeking to increase Russian presence there.