Updated July 1, 2020, 6:36 a.m.
NATO sees itself as an alliance in which one can blindly trust the other. However, what recently happened in the Mediterranean between the warships of the allies France and Turkey sounds more like the Cold War.
Has a Turkish warship indirectly threatened to attack a French frigate? If so, why? NATO military experts have completed the investigation into a sensational confrontation between Alliance members Turkey and France.
A first report has been completed and should now be discussed promptly, a NATO spokesman for the German Press Agency confirmed. The alliance now faces new unpleasant discussions.
France rates incident as “extremely aggressive”
In the incident in the Mediterranean, according to information from Paris, a Turkish warship had repeatedly directed its fire control radar at a French frigate. Since such systems are usually only used to provide target data for the use of weapon systems, France considered this to be “extremely aggressive” and was raised at the recent NATO Defense Ministers’ meeting.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg then announced that the June 10 incident was now being investigated by the NATO military authorities – also because the French frigate was underway as part of the Sea Guardian NATO maritime surveillance operation at the time of the incident.
Turkey rejects all allegations as “completely unrealistic”
So far, France’s claims have been vehemently rejected by Turkey. The state news agency Anadolu cited a senior military officer who dismissed the allegations as “completely unrealistic.”
The French frigate “Courbet” was said to have traveled dangerously fast in the immediate vicinity of the Turkish ship and had made no radio contact. For security reasons, the Turkish ship used the radar’s integrated camera to monitor this maneuver, but no target acquisition was carried out.
The military also pointed out that a few days before the incident, the Turkish Navy even supplied the French ship with fuel on the high seas.
NATO suspects distractions behind Turkey’s behavior
From NATO circles it was said that the Turkish behavior could probably be regarded as a provocation and probably had the aim of preventing the French frigate from checking a suspect cargo ship.
At the same time, it was emphasized that thanks to its reconnaissance technology, the French frigate’s crew should have known exactly that it was being pursued by an ally and not by a potential opponent. At least the risk of a military confrontation triggered by a misunderstanding was therefore minimal.
The background to the incident is that the French frigate wanted to control a cargo ship suspected of being used for Turkish arms deliveries to Libya. The ship “Cirkin”, sailing under the flag of Tanzania, is said to have been used for such transports in May.
France has long accused Turkey of violating the EU arms embargo by delivering arms to the Libyan government.
Turkey, on the other hand, is of the opinion that countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia with arms deliveries to government opponent General Chalifa Haftar also violate the arms embargo. France is also said to sympathize with Haftar rather than with the Libyan unity government.
No signs of relaxation between France and Turkey so far
It is still unclear whether the French frigate’s crew knew at the time of the incident that a Greek frigate from EU operation Irini had previously unsuccessfully tried to control the “Cirkin” traveling to Libya.
The Turks made it clear to the Greek forces by radio at the time that the ship was under their protection and could not be controlled. As a result, the commander withdrew his command.
Whether the dispute over the incident can be resolved will become clear in the coming weeks, according to alliance circles. The report, classified as secret by the alliance experts, does not contain any conclusions and evaluations, but only collects data and information from the two sides, it said. It should now be discussed in the military committee and then, if possible, become the basis for settling the dispute.
So far, there is no evidence of relaxation. It is therefore not out of the question that France will force the NATO Secretary General to even deal with the issue in the North Atlantic Council – NATO’s most important political decision-making body.
The incident is extremely inconvenient for the Alliance headquarters. In the end, she had actually intended to show that French President Emmanuel Macron is wrong when he calls the alliance “brain dead” because of internal conflicts and inadequate agreements. (jwo / dpa)
Be it the invasion of Syria or the arms deliveries to Libya: Turkey’s action in the regional conflicts is viewed critically by the Federal Government. Arms were still delivered to the NATO partner, at least in the past year.
Teaser picture: © AFP