Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denounced Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for supporting forces based in eastern Libya, after Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi met Libyan tribesmen who urged Cairo to intervene in the war.
Turkey has been providing military aid to the United Nations-recognised government in the Libya conflict, while Egypt, the UAE and Russia have backed its foes in a rival administration based in the east.
Recent weeks have seen dramatic military advances by the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), which drove back forces of the eastern renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar who had launched an assault on Tripoli last year.
Eastern-based legislators called this week for Egypt to intervene in the conflict. El-Sisi met Libyan tribesmen on Thursday and said Egypt would not stand idle in the face of a direct threat to Egyptian and Libyan security.
Asked about the possibility of Egyptian intervention, Erdogan said on Friday Turkey would maintain its support for the GNA.
“Steps taken by Egypt here, especially their siding with the putschist Haftar, show they are in an illegal process,” he said. He also described the approach of the UAE as “piratical”.
El-Sisi said last month Egypt’s army might enter Libya if the Tripoli government and its Turkish allies renewed an assault on the central Sirte-Jufrah front line, seen as the gateway to Libya’s main oil export terminals, now held by Haftar’s allies.
Libya has been mired in conflict since 2011, when longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi was removed in a NATO-backed operation.
Meanwhile, France’s foreign ministry on Friday rebuffed US assertions that an EU naval mission to enforce a UN weapons embargo for Libya was biased and not serious, saying Washington should itself be doing more to stop the flow of weapons to the North African country.
David Schenker, assistant secretary for Near East Affairs at the US State Department, said on Thursday Europe should go beyond limiting arms-supply interdictions to Turkey by designating Russian military contractor Wagner Group and calling out Moscow and other countries such as the UAE and Egypt over the issue.
In response to Schenker’s comments, French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll told reporters: “We call on all our partners – starting with the United States – to step up their action, as the European Union is doing, to hinder recurrent violations of the arms embargo and to help relaunch a political process inclusive.”
Turkey has intervened decisively in recent weeks in Libya, providing air support, weapons and allied fighters from Syria to help the GNA repel a year-long assault by Haftar.
Turkey accuses France of supporting Haftar politically, having previously given him military assistance to fight armed groups.
France denies this, but relations between the two NATO allies have frayed with Paris repeatedly pointing the finger at Ankara over its role in Libya, while never publicly criticising Egypt or the UAE for their role.
“France is actively participating in this important operation in the context of increased foreign interference in the Libyan conflict, which we have condemned in the strongest terms,” Von der Muhll said.
The UN has previously cited the UAE, Egypt and Turkey for breaching the embargo.
Germany also stressed on Friday the need to uphold the Libyan arms embargo in the wake of el-Sisi’s latest statement.
Speaking at a regular news briefing in Berlin, Christofer Burger, a deputy spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, made clear that the Libyan arms embargo “applied to all sides”.
The German diplomat called for an “immediate end” to foreign military support for the conflict parties.