By John Irish, Robin Emmott
Jul. 7, 2020
For France, it was the final straw. For Turkey, it was a misunderstanding. For NATO, it could be a turning point.
The incident unfolded quickly in the eastern Mediterranean on June 10, when a French frigate under NATO command tried to inspect a Tanzanian-flagged cargo ship suspected of smuggling arms to Libya in violation of a U.N. embargo.
The French armed forces ministry, speaking on behalf of the government, said the frigate was harassed by three Turkish navy vessels escorting the cargo ship. A Turkish ship flashed its radar lights and its crew put on bulletproof vests and stood behind their light weapons, it said.
Turkey disputes this. It denies trafficking arms to Libya and says the cargo ship, the Cirkin, was carrying humanitarian aid. It has accused the French navy of aggression.
Turkey’s ambassador to France, Ismail Hakkı Musa, said on July 1 the three Turkish warships were helping NATO enforce the U.N. arms embargo.