France says Turkey’s ‘aggressive’ conduct in Libya is ‘unacceptable’

French official denounces Turkish deployment of ships off-libya and violations of the arms embargo.
Monday 15/06/2020
A file picture of French President Emmanuel Macron. (AFP)
A file picture of French President Emmanuel Macron. (AFP)

PARIS, FRANCE--France on Sunday slammed Turkey’s “aggressive” intervention in the Libya conflict as unacceptable, accusing its fellow NATO member of violating a UN arms embargo and sending half a dozen ships to the war-torn country’s coast.

Turkey, supported by its main regional ally Qatar, backs the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) in the conflict against the forces of Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

Paris is angered by an “even more aggressive and insistent stance from Turkey, with seven Turkish ships deployed off the Libyan coast and violations of the arms embargo,” a senior presidential official said.

“The Turks are behaving in an unacceptable manner and are exploiting NATO. France cannot just stand by,” added the official, who asked not to be named.

French President Emmanuel Macron has already held talks on the issue this week with US leader Donald Trump, and “exchanges will take place in the weeks to come on this subject with NATO partners,” the official said.

The comments came after a Turkish warship on Wednesday prevented a new EU naval mission enforcing the Libya arms embargo from checking a suspect freighter off the Libyan coast. Thursday, in a proclaimed “show of force,” Turkey conducted an air and naval exercise in Libyan territorial waters.

Turkey has sent Syrian mercenaries, military advisors, arms and drones in support of the GNA, in a deployment which has changed the course of the conflict, with Haftar’s forces enduring a string of setbacks.

Tensions have risen over the last yeat between Macron and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, notably when the French leader said that the lack of NATO response to a unilateral Turkish operation in northern Syria showed that the alliance was undergoing “brain death”.

Being on opposing sides of the conflict, Russia and Turkey are searching for common ground in Libya as they did with Syria.

Russia’s foreign and defence ministers postponed a planned visit to Turkey on Sunday to discuss the Libya and Syria conflicts, over apparently continuing disagreements.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov decided to put off the talks during a phone call on Sunday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.