Turkey prepares naval drills off Libyan coast, a show of force amid tensions with France

The Turkish Ministry of National Defense will soon carry out large-call naval exercises off the Libyan coast to prove ability to control the region by air and sea, amid tensions with France over the oil-rich African country.

The maneuvers dubbed “Naftex” will take place in three different regions: Barbaros, Turgutreis and Chaka Bey, Middle East Monitor (MEMO) reports, citing a statement from the ministry.

The drills, to prepare the navy forces for a potential war east of the Mediterranean, will take place soon in light of recent escalations of tensions in Libya, MEMO said, adding that the drills will involve 17 warplanes and eight naval vessels.

Turkey has been embroiled in the diplomatic tussle with France over Libya, with Paris accusing Ankara of occupation.

Turkey since November has been supporting the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) opposed to rebel military forces led by retired Gen. Khalifa Haftar backed by France, Russia, US, Egypt and UAE.

France also charged the Turkish navy of harassing a French naval vessel in the Eastern Mediterranean last month while trying to inspect a cargo ship suspected of carrying weapons to Libya.

The European country, in protest to the alleged harassment, temporarily suspended its participation in Operation Sea Guardian – operation to patrol the Mediterranean and in particular along the coast of Libya, in an attempt to enforce the UN arm embargo on the North African country.

Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and Admiral Adnan Ozbal, commander of the Turkish Naval Forces were recently in Tripoli to meet with GNA leaders.

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