A French Defence official called on NATO to stop sticking its head on the sand ignoring Turkey’s recent belligerent behaviour towards its allies.
The French official accused the Turkish Navy today of harassing a French warship on a NATO mission.
A senior Turkish official has denied the allegations, saying “no such thing” has happened.
NATO defence ministers are scheduled to hold a teleconference this week amid growing tensions between Paris and Ankara. The two allies exchanged ‘punches’ for the crisis in Libya, accusing each other of supporting rival sides in the country’s civil war.
Speaking before the meeting, the French official stressed that it was time for NATO to have an honest discussion with Turkey and its behaviour – not only in Libya, but also on other issues such as the purchase of Russian S-400 defence systems and the hindrance this causes to NATO’s defence planning for the Baltic states and Poland.
“We have gone through difficult times in the Alliance, but we cannot adopt an ostrich mentality pretending that there is no Turkish problem in NATO. We have to see it, say it and deal with it,” the official said. Describing Turkey’s behaviour as unacceptable, the official made special reference to Turkey’s role in Libya.
Turkey, which supports the internationally recognised government in Tripoli, has established a foothold in Libya by helping to repel an attack on the capital by the Libyan National Army of Commander Khalifa Haftar, the strong man of East Libya, backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia.
The French official said that Turkey’s decision to send more weapons and Syrian mercenaries to the country did not contribute to peace at all and was in fact pushing Russia to increase its involvement.
He accused the Turkish military of using NATO call signals to escort Turkish ships suspected of violating the UN arms embargo in order to hand over weapons to Libya.
He made special mention to an incident, in which, as he explained, Turkish warships acted aggressively towards a French warship in a NATO mission that was checking whether the Turkish ship Cirkin was smuggling weapons to Libya.
French officials said Cirkin had shut down its tracking system, concealed its number and declined to say what its destination was. “It was an extremely aggressive act and it could not be the action of an ally working within NATO under NATO command,” the French official said.
A senior Turkish official has denied the allegations, saying French forces wanted to investigate a Turkish ship in international waters and “this was not allowed” and that Turkey did not take provocative or aggressive action to prevent this.