ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s defense minister said Friday his country still expects an apology from NATO ally France over a naval standoff in the Mediterranean Sea that prompted Paris to suspend its involvement in a NATO naval operation.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar claimed that France has yet to submit technical data to NATO to support its claims that a Turkish warship escorting a cargo vessel suspected of involvement in arms trafficking to Libya used targeting radar to illuminate the French frigate Courbet.
“We are still awaiting an apology from our French allies,” Akar said at an event at Istanbul’s Bogazici University. “We won’t allow them to close (this incident) and will follow it until the end.”
The minister’s comments came days after White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said the United States was “very sympathetic” to France in the dispute with Turkey. O’Brien said it was “not good” for NATO allies to use their radars to illuminate each other.
France said it was acting on intelligence from NATO that the civilian cargo ship could be involved in trafficking arms to Libya. The Courbet was part of the Western military alliance’s operation Sea Guardian, which helps provide maritime security in the Mediterranean.
Turkey has accused France of lying, and insists that the French navy had acted aggressively against the Turkish convoy.
“Not only was the French vessel not harassed, the French vessel performed a very dangerous maneuver against an advancing Turkish convoy of three ships, by speeding in between them at 20 knots,” Akar said.