France has informed NATO that it is suspending participation in a naval operation in the Mediterranean after the results of an investigation into an incident between French and Turkish warships, an official with the Ministry of the Armed Forces said on Wednesday.
The official said France wants NATO allies to “solemnly reaffirm their commitment” to the arms embargo imposed on Libya.
Links between NATO allies, France and Turkey have been soured in recent weeks over Libya, northern Syria and drilling in the eastern Mediterranean.
France has been particularly angry after accusing Turkish warships of being aggressive towards its battleship Courbet after attempting to inspect a ship in June suspected of violating a United Nations arms embargo imposed on Libya.
Le Courbet operated as part of the NATO Sea Guardian operation.
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NATO launched an investigation after France protested at a meeting of alliance defense ministers in June.
An official in the French Ministry of the Armed Forces said that a letter had been sent to NATO on Tuesday, setting out four requests: a reaffirmation by the members of the alliance of their commitment to respect the embargo; ensure that NATO call signs are not used by countries during national missions; better coordination between NATO and EU missions enforcing the embargo; and put in place mechanisms to avoid similar incidents in the future.
“While waiting to proceed with these requests, we have decided to temporarily withdraw our assets from Operation Sea Guardian,” said the official. “It doesn’t make sense to keep our assets … with allies who don’t respect the embargo. ”
France says its frigate Courbet was “lit” three times on June 10 by the Turkish navy targeting a radar when it attempted to approach a Turkish civilian ship suspected of being involved in arms trafficking.
The ship was escorted by three Turkish warships. Le Courbet retreated after being targeted.
Turkish Ambassador to France Ismail Hakki Musa previously told French senators that Paris is withdrawing after the investigation into the incident was not conclusive and did not support Paris’s claims.
Musa denied the French account, telling senators that it was the French warship that had been aggressive. He said that the ship in question was carrying humanitarian aid.