France Bows Out of NATO Exercise over Alleged Behavior by Turkish Vessels
France has announced it is pulling its forces from a NATO security drill in the Mediterranean, citing dissatisfaction with an inquiry by the organization into alleged Turkish aggression toward a French naval ship. According to French defense officials, three Turkish naval vessels last month aggressively approached and engaged a French corvette after the latter detained a Tanzania-flagged cargo ship suspected of smuggling illegal arms to a Libyan port. Turkey has denied the accusations. The escalating tensions stem from the ongoing conflict in Libya, in which the two countries support opposing sides. While Turkey – along with Qatar, Italy and others – backs the UN-recognized Government of National Accord, based in Tripoli, France is believed to back insurgents led by renegade general Khalifa Haftar along with Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Paris denies it supports Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army, which holds most of southeastern Libya, and claims it merely wishes to stop Turkey from violating an arms embargo and destabilizing the region.