Egypt and France conduct joint naval exercises in Mediterranean

The Egyptian navy conducted joint military drills with the French navy in the Mediterranean as tensions with Turkey rise in the region, Egypt Today reported on Saturday. 

“As part of the General Command of the Armed Forces’ plan to upgrade the training level and exchange experiences with the military forces of a friend and sister country, the Egyptian and French Navy executed joint drills that included the Egyptian frigate ‘Long Live Egypt’ and the French frigate ‘ACONIT’, Egypt Today cited an Egyptian military spokesperson as saying in a statement.

“The drills included several activities of professional nature that focused on tactics of cooperation during the execution of sea combat missions against hostile naval forces, along with using ammunition against air and ground targets. The drills also included the execution of battles using seaborne aircraft," the spokesperson said.

Egypt Today did not specify when the drills took place.

The exercises come at a time of rising tensions between Turkey and several other countries, including Egypt, France, Greece, and Cyprus over a range of issues including the conflict in Libya, competing claims over hydrocarbon exploration rights, and Turkish naval ambitions. 

A dispute between Paris and Ankara has simmered since an alleged incident on June 10 in which the French frigate Courbet said it was illuminated by the targeting radar of a Turkish warship escorting a Tanzanian-flagged cargo ship in the eastern Mediterranean. 

France said it was acting on intelligence from NATO that the Turkish-escorted ship was suspected of trafficking arms to Libya in violation of a United Nations embargo. Turkey has denied the allegations.

Meanwhile, Libya’s Turkish-backed, U.N.-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, has won a string of key battlefield victories in the past two months over the rebel General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which is backed by Egypt, France, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates, among others.

Cairo has threatened to send troops into Libya if the GNA and Turkish forces try to seize Sirte, after the GNA turned its attention to capturing the key town that is a gateway to Libya’s main oil terminals. 

On Monday, Egypt’s parliament approved a bill to deploy troops to Libya.

France has also pledged support to Greece and Cyprus in their disputes with Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean over potentially rich gas reserves.

Tensions have increased since Turkey signed a memorandum of understanding with the GNA on Nov. 27 that sees the two countries as maritime neighbours. Greece says the deal ignores territorial waters around several of its islands.

Egypt Today said that Cairo conducted joint military exercises in November with Greece and Cyprus.