Macron denounces Turkey’s intervention in Libya as ‘criminal’

France seeks coordination with Germany as it assumes the EU presidency.
Tuesday 30/06/2020
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a press conference after talks on June 29. (AFP)
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a press conference after talks on June 29. (AFP)

PARIS--French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday accused Turkey of “criminal responsibility” over its involvement in the Libyan conflict, in an escalating row with Ankara.

The French president made his statements in Berlin where he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Monday to coordinate European and international policies on the eve of Germany’s presidency of the European Union.

Macron told reporters that Turkey has increased its military presence “and massively re-imported jihadist fighters from Syria” even after foreign powers agreed earlier this year to end their meddling and respect a UN arms embargo.

Media reports have talked about Ankara delivering weapon systems and dispatching an undetermined number of military personnel and thousands of mercenaries to help the Islamist-dominated Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli in its fight against the Libyan National Army (LNA).

“I think this is a historic and criminal responsibility for someone who claims to be a member of NATO,” Macron said after holding talks with Merkel at Meseberg castle near Berlin.

Turkey’s conduct in Libya is “unacceptable to us,” Macron said, adding that the moment had come for Ankara to “urgently clarify” its stance.

He said Turkey “doesn’t respect any of its commitments.” France sees Ankara as an obstacle to securing a ceasefire in the conflict-torn country.

Macron last week accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government of playing a “dangerous game” in the North African country that could no longer be tolerated.

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

France has also denounced Turkish designs for gas drilling activities in the Mediterranean based on a maritime border demarcation deal struck by Ankara with the GNA.

The Ankara-Paris strains soared further this month when France denounced an “extremely aggressive” intervention June 10 by Turkish warships against a French navy vessel participating in a NATO mission in the Mediterranean.

French military officials later disclosed that the Turkish navy was escorting a vessel suspected of smuggling weapons to Tripoli in violations of a UN-mandated embargo.

Macron also condemned interference in Libya from Russian private military contractor Wagner.

In recent weeks, French officials have repeatedly said that Turkey’s intervention was encouraging Russia to gain a greater foothold in Libya.

Macron spoke to Putin on Friday. He said the two leaders agreed to work towards a common goal of a ceasefire.

According to official sources, Macron’s Berlin trip served to discuss European and foreign policy priorities of both countries on the eve of Germany assuming the rotating presidency of the 27-nation bloc for six months starting Wednesday.

The EU bloc will seek agreement on a huge package to pull its stricken economy out of the coronavirus crisis, and on its future budget. It will also have to examine former member Britain’s definitive departure from the EU’s single market is expected — with or without an agreement.

EU leaders are scheduled to meet July 17-18 for their first in-person summit in months, on both the recovery fund and the EU’s budget for seven years starting January 1.