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Iran Press TV

France should apologize over 'false claims' about naval incident in Mediterranean: Turkish FM

Iran Press TV

Thursday, 02 July 2020 5:48 PM

Turkey says France should apologize for making "false claims" about a naval incident between the warships of the two NATO allies in the Mediterranean last month that prompted Paris to ask for a NATO investigation.

Paris claimed last week that one of its military ships was harassed by Turkish frigates last month through radar targeting as the French ship purportedly sought to inspect a cargo vessel suspected of carrying arms to war-ravaged Libya.

France has described the incident as an "extremely aggressive" behavior from the Turkish vessels while the French ship was allegedly participating in a NATO Mediterranean maritime security operation, known as Operation Sea Guardian.

Paris on Wednesday said that it was suspending its participation in the Operation Sea Guardian until its concerns were addressed.

The Turkish government has already strongly rejected the allegations as "groundless", insisting that its frigates just observed the French warship. Ankara, for its part, accused the French vessel of a "high-speed and dangerous maneuver."

NATO has already launched an investigation into the maritime incident.

Last month, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said NATO officials were looking into the incident, adding, "Those two NATO allies have totally different views on what actually happened."

On Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu demanded a formal apology from Paris over the allegations.

"France did not tell the truth to both NATO and the EU. The claim that our ships locked is not true. We proved that and gave the documents to NATO. And NATO saw the reality," he said in a joint press conference with his German counterpart Heiko Maas in the German capital, Berlin.

"Our expectation from France is to apologize to us for not providing the true information," the Turkish top diplomat further said.

Since 2014, two rival seats of power have emerged in Libya, namely the internationally-recognized government, known as the Government of National Accord (GNA), and another group under the command of Libya's renegade General Khalifa Haftar and based in the eastern city of Tobruk, which is supported militarily by forces loyal to him and is collectively known as the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA).

The strongman, supported by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Jordan, launched a deadly offensive to capture Tripoli, the seat of the GNA, in April last year. His forces, however, failed to advance past the city's outskirts. Early last month, they even lost those areas to the advancing GNA forces.

Turkey fully supports the GNA and for the past several months has sent arms and military equipment to Tripoli to help it defend itself against the LNA. Ankara has even sent Ankara-backed Syrian militants to Libya to further assist the GNA, a move that drew criticisms.

France, for its part, is accused of supporting Haftar and hence, tensions between Ankara and Paris soared for the past couple of months.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Turkish foreign minister said the UN resolution stated that the GNA is the only legitimate government in the North African country.

"The only and the best solution to the Libyan conflict is a political solution and permanent cease-fire," Cavusoglu further said, adding that Ankara was ready for dialogue to facilitate a political solution and maintain stability in Libya.

However, French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday said that Turkey had a "criminal responsibility" over its involvement in Libya.

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