France pulls out of NATO Med operation over Turkey tensions

AFP
Paris, France Published: Jul 01, 2020, 08.11 PM(IST)

NATO Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

"We have decided to temporarily withdraw our assets from the operation Sea Guardian" until France's concerns are addressed, a French defence official, who asked not to be named, told reporters. 

France said Wednesday it was pulling out of a NATO Mediterranean maritime security operation until it gets a response to its concerns over the behaviour of fellow member Turkey.

"We have decided to temporarily withdraw our assets from the operation Sea Guardian" until France's concerns are addressed, a French defence official, who asked not to be named, told reporters. 

The decision follows an escalation in tensions with Turkey over the Libya conflict which has seen both sides exchange accusations with increasing bitterness in recent days.

Earlier this month, France denounced an "extremely aggressive" intervention by Turkish ships against a French navy vessel participating in the NATO mission in the Mediterranean, a claim Ankara dismissed as "groundless".

Ankara supports the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in the Libya conflict 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 in the conflict.

Paris accuses Ankara of shipping arms to Libya in defiance of a UN embargo as well sending in pro-Turkey Syrian militia fighters fresh from the conflict there.

"It does not seem to us healthy to maintain our assets in an operation supposed, among its various tasks, to control an embargo alongside allies who do not respect it", said the official in apparent reference to Turkey.

Paris demands in particular "that allies solemnly reaffirm their attachment and their commitment to the respect of the embargo" on weapons to Libya. 

France also wants a better conflict-resolution mechanism within the military alliance, the official added.

Macron said last week that he believed the naval incident between France and Turkey was worrying proof of his belief that NATO is in the throes of "brain death".

According to NATO, the Sea Guardian operation was launched in November 2016 and is aimed at "carrying out maritime security capacity building, and providing support to maritime situational awareness and to maritime counter-terrorism".

Read in App