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MAJOR: New Rift in NATO as Turkey and France Engage in War of Words over Libya

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PARIS/ANKARA – Turkey’s leadership blamed France for causing instability in Libya after the French President Emmanuel Macron accused his Turkish counterpart of failing “to keep his word” and to put an end to Turkish aggressive Neo-Ottoman meddling in the North African country.

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“The main [actor] responsible for the problems in Libya since the crisis started in 2011 is France,” Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement on Wednesday, Al-Jazeera reported.

“It’s no secret that this country has given unconditional support to Haftar in order to have a say regarding natural resources in Libya,” he added, referring to LNA Military Commander, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who managed to reestablish control over most of Libya’s territory.

Earlier on Wednesday, during a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the French leader condemned Turkish actions, after their warships accompanied and transported Turkish-backed terrorists from Syria. The terrorists arrived to Lybia in large numbers in recent days, further escalating the war.

Macron said the action was a clear violation of what Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised at the Berlin conference on January 19 where world leaders pledged to stay out of the Libyan conflict.

“These past few days we have seen Turkish warships accompanied by Syrian mercenaries arrive on Libyan soil. This is a serious and explicit infringement of what was agreed upon in Berlin,” Macron stated, referring to the international summit.

“It is a failure to keep his word,” Macron added.

However, Aksoy noted that Macron “was once again trying to set the agenda with fanciful claims”. Since the 2011 overthrow (supported by both France and Turkey) of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has been mired in chaos, with rival administrations aligned with various militias controlling different parts of the country.

In April 2019, Haftar launched an offensive to retake control of the country’s capital, Tripoli, from the GNA, headed by self-declared and mostly cosmetic Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. Haftar, who enjoys the backing of Egypt, launched his military campaign in order to remove terrorist groups from western Libya.

Aksoy claimed France’s support, alongside other countries giving military assistance to Haftar who is attacking the legitimate government”, was “the most serious threat to Libya’s territorial integrity and sovereignty”.

The spokesman added, “If France wants to contribute to decisions of the [Berlin] conference being applied, it should first end its support for Haftar.”

Ties between Paris and Ankara are increasingly strained over multiple issues, including Turkish actions in Syria and Lybia, as well as Turkey’s illegal oil and gas extraction activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, especially the Turkish encroachment on Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone, primarily in the northern waters of Cyprus, which the Turks illegally invaded and occupied in 1974.

Aksoy also accused France of welcoming “terrorists who threaten Syria’s territorial integrity” to the Elysee, in a reference to Syrian Kurdish Officials meeting Macron last year at his official residence. Meanwhile, the African Union’s high-level committee on Libya was due to meet in the Republic of Congo’s capital Brazzaville on Thursday to discuss the situation in the war-torn country.

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