July 26, 2021

“Potential crises are numerous in the Mediterranean”

Vice-admiral Laurent Isnard has been maritime prefect of the Mediterranean and commander of the Mediterranean maritime zone since September 2019. This marine commando and training combat swimmer, who notably led the Hubert commando from 1999 to 2001, is very familiar with well the whole of the Mediterranean area. He carried out numerous missions there and piloted all special operations from September 2016 to August 2019, as general officer commanding special operations, in Paris. According to him, there is an increased risk of importing a number of conflicts or confrontations from the Persian Gulf and Asia to the Mediterranean.

What is the situation in the Mediterranean a year after the “Courbet” incident, which saw a Turkish frigate attack a French frigate as it tried to control a Turkish freighter suspected of violating the arms embargo at its destination? from Libya?

A year later, we can say that the reasons which led to this crisis have not disappeared. States such as Russia or Turkey continue to place themselves in a logic of competition and they sometimes do so by resorting to the register of confrontation, even if it means ignoring or even contesting international law. In this, they continue to oppose the universalist vision of the law that we defend with others. They maintain a certain pressure. Russia is not a direct shoreline of the Mediterranean, but it operates today from its gateway to the coast that is the port of Tartus, in Syria. It has had access for its warships since 2019 for fifty years. Russia is also present in Libya through the company Wagner, employer of Russian mercenaries. Turkey is also still present in Libya, despite requests from the Libyans and the United Nations Security Council regarding the departure of foreign troops.

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What else do you see?

The other important development in recent years is the risk of importing into the Mediterranean more and more external crises, particularly from the Persian Gulf and Asia with new players not bordering the Mediterranean. The political and religious divides around the Muslim Brotherhood movement, for example, can be found today through support claimed from Turkey allied to Qatar on the one hand, and frontal opposition from Egypt allied to the Emirates. Arab states on the other.

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