June 17, 2020 / 7:51 PM / 18 days ago

Turkish military official denies French claim that warship was harassed

ANKARA (Reuters) - A senior Turkish military official said on Wednesday it was “completely untrue” that the Turkish navy had harassed a French warship, denying an assertion by a French official.

Earlier on Wednesday, the French defence ministry official accused the Turkish navy of harassing a French warship on a NATO mission.

He said the French ship had wanted to check whether the Turkish vessel Cirkin was smuggling arms to Libya. In response, French officials said the Cirkin had switched off its tracking system, masked its ID number, and refused to say where it was going.

The Turkish military official told Reuters the French warship did not establish communications with the Turkish ship during the incident.

“If one takes into account that the French warship was refuelled by our side before the alleged incident, it is clear how inappropriate and intentional the allegation is,” he said.

The French foreign ministry has accused Turkey’s navy of acting in a hostile manner towards its NATO allies to prevent them from enforcing a United Nations arms embargo on Libya.

Turkey, which backs the internationally recognised GNA authorities in Tripoli, has secured a foothold in Libya by helping to repel an assault on the capital by the Libyan National Army (LNA) of eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, who is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia.

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

Reporting by Orhan Coskun; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Sandra Maler and Rosalba O'Brien

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