Turkey fires back at French criticism over role in Libya

A Turkish flag flies at Nato headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 28, 2020. — Reuters pic
A Turkish flag flies at Nato headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 28, 2020. — Reuters pic

ISTANBUL, June 17 ― Turkey shot back yesterday at “unacceptable” criticism from France over its armed support for the government in the Libyan capital Tripoli, accusing Paris of being an obstacle to peace.

Turkey, supported by its main regional ally Qatar, backs the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli in the conflict against the forces of eastern Libya strongman Khalifa Haftar.

France, despite public denials, has long been suspected of favouring Haftar, who has the backing of Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.

“The main obstacle to establishing peace and stability in Libya is the support given by France and other countries” to Haftar, the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement, denouncing as “unacceptable” the French criticism.

France's support for Haftar “has worsened the crisis in Libya,” the ministry added, accusing Paris of serving as the “subcontractor for some countries in the region,” an allusion to the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

The heated exchange risks raising tension further between Ankara and Paris, two Nato allies whose relations have deteriorated since 2016.

On Monday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian condemned what he called Turkey's growing military support for the GNA “in direct violation” of the United Nations embargo.

On Sunday, a senior French presidential official said Paris was 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.

“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.

The comments came after a Turkish warship last Wednesday prevented a new EU naval mission enforcing the Libya arms embargo from checking a suspect freighter off the Libyan coast.

Turkey has sent Syrian fighters, military advisors 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 defeats. ― AFP

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