Libya’s Turkish-allied government in Tripoli sparked the latest French dispute within NATO. Last year, French President Emmanuel Macron already declared the alliance “brain dead” after Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria.
A cargo ship, flying the Tanzanian flag, the Circkin, stopped in Turkey in May this year. Declaring its destination as the port of Gabès in Tunisia, the commercial vessel sets off but disables it satellite collision avoidance system (AIS), only two days after its departure from Turkish waters. It then crossed south of Crete and simultaneously masked its identification so as not to be recognizable.
It didn’t take long for the French frigate Forbin, a large anti-air frigate (D620) patrolling the area, to interrogate the captain of the Tanzanian ship on May 27, to learn more about this suspicious behavior.
French sailors soon observed that two frigates of the Turkish army, which until then had kept their distance, quickly approach the cargo ship, a move seen as a provocation from the Turkish Navy.
Rapidly, the two Turkish frigates interposed themselves between the freighter and the Forbin in order to avoid France being able to know more about the intentions of the mysterious ship. French sailors quickly understood that there was a huge problem with the cargo.
Furious French officials say Turkish frigates “lit up” the French warship with its targeting radar when it wanted to inspect the suspicious cargo ship. Under the alliance’s rules of engagement such conduct is considered a hostile act.
Ankara has since denied the series of events.
President Macron has accused Turkey of criminal actions against the Libyan National Army (LNA) as well as a breach of its commitments signed at an international conference earlier this year aimed at halting the war. Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister, told a French parliamentary hearing recently that he would convene a meeting with his EU counterparts on July 13 to discuss fresh sanctions against Turkey.
France even suspended its participation in a NATO exercise in the Mediterranean Sea as a result of the standoff with Turkish warships, as tensions between the two members of the transatlantic military alliance deepen.
The EU’s punitive measures on Ankara over its illegal drilling for hydrocarbons in waters off Cyprus, an EU member, has been largely symbolic.
Ankara has illegally been sending weapons and military advisers to Tripoli’s Government of National Accord (GNA) to push back General Haftar, who has been fighting ISIS terrorists with the backing of Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.