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Turkey navy accused of harassing French frigate in Med

Turkish Navy officers on in Istanbul, Turkey July 12, 2019 [Muhammed Enes Yıldırım/Anadolu Agency]
Turkish Navy officers on in Istanbul, Turkey July 12, 2019 [Muhammed Enes Yıldırım/Anadolu Agency]

An official from the French Defence Ministry told Reuters yesterday that Turkish frigates carried out an "extremely aggressive" intervention against a French navy vessel said to be taking part in a NATO mission in the Mediterranean and denounced Turkish manoeuvres as "very dangerous".

However, Turkey has denied France's claims, with a senior military official saying they were "completely untrue", the incident was alleged to have occurred a few weeks ago.

According to the French official, the warship wanted to establish whether the Turkish vessel Cirkin was attempting to smuggle arms to Libya, which is facing a UN arms embargo.

READ: Turkish ministers visit Libya, Tripoli government says

Cirkin in turn is said to have switched off its tracking system, masked its ID number and refused to say where it was going. This was followed by Turkish frigates carrying out radar targeting against the French warship three times, suggesting a missile strike was imminent, claimed the French Defense Ministry.

The Turkish military official, however, claimed the French warship did not establish communications with the Turkish ship during the incident.

"Turkey is fulfilling its obligations as an ally today as always," the official said. "It has saddened us that the matter has reached this stage."

NATO defence ministers will be holding a virtual meeting this week amid growing tensions between Paris and Ankara. The two allies have accused each other of supporting opposing sides in the Libyan civil war. Turkey, which supports the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), on Tuesday blamed France over its support for General Khalifa Haftar which has deepened the conflict.

READ: Turkey, Italy conduct joint drill in Mediterranean

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