Turkey has blamed France for instability in Libya after French President Emmanuel Macron accused his Turkish counterpart of failing “to keep his word” to put an end to meddling in the North African country.
“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.
“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 renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar who controls much of Libya’s south and east.
The French leader claimed earlier on Wednesday at a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis that Turkish warships accompanying Syrian mercenaries arrived in Libya in recent days.
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 said, referring to the international summit.
“It is a failure to keep his word,” Macron added.
However, Aksoy said Macron “was once again trying to set the agenda with fanciful claims”.
Since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has been mired in chaos, with rival administrations aligned with various militias controlling different parts of the country.
Turkey supports the United Nations-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli against Haftar, whose forces are aligned with an eastern-based administration.
Fighting escalated in April after Haftar launched an offensive to wrest control of the capital, Tripoli, from the GNA, headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.
Haftar, who enjoys the backing of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, says his military campaign is aimed at removing “terrorist groups” from western Libya.
Aksoy said 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 Turkish ministry 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 Syria and the oil and gas exploration activities in the eastern Mediterranean.
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 the Congo‘s capital Brazzaville on Thursday to discuss the situation in the war-torn country.