France seeks NATO talks about Turkey’s involvement in Libya
France wants talks with NATO allies to discuss Turkey’s interference in Libya, which it says has thwarted efforts to secure a ceasefire between the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA).
Turkey, which backs the internationally recognised GNA, has secured a foothold in Libya after helping to repel an assault on the capital Tripoli by General Khalifa Haftar’s LNA, which is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia.
Turkish media reported last week that Turkey plans to use two Libyan military bases, a naval base in Misrata and the recently recaptured al-Watiya airport, for a longer-term presence in the North African country.
The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday that foreign interference in Libya, particularly “the intensification of Turkish support”, has muddled ceasefire efforts, Reuters reported.
“These interferences are becoming very problematic and, despite our efforts, the situation is getting bogged down. This increasingly aggressive posture is not acceptable,” a French presidential official told Reuters. “Turkey is supposed to be a NATO partner, so this cannot continue.”
Reuters said NATO defence ministers were scheduled to hold talks on Wednesday and Thursday.
Analysts say Turkey’s contributions were vital in helping the GNA seize the al-Watiya airbase last month, heavily using drones and artillery power before LNA forces retreated. Turkey has also flown in thousands of fighters from allied militant groups in Syria to aid in the conflict.
Moscow meanwhile sent mercenaries of the Kremlin-linked Wagner group to support Haftar in December and, more recently, dispatched Russian jets to bolster the Tobruk-based group’s military firepower.
At a news conference on Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavuşolğu said he and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, postponed talks on Sunday focussed on conflicts in which both their countries are involved on opposing sides, which also include Syria, TRT World reported.
Cavuşolğu said the postponement was unrelated to any lingering issues on “core principles” towards Libya and Syria.
"For a lasting ceasefire in Libya... and to plan detailed steps that are going to be taken after the ceasefire, we have decided that it'll be better for everyone involved to continue discussions on a technical level," the minister said.
However, a Turkish official told Reuters on Monday that Ankara and Moscow postponed the talks over the GNA’s push to retake the strategic coastal city of Sirte. Discussions were continuing behind closed doors, the official said.
“A result was supposed to come out (of the meetings), but that stage could not be reached. There are issues where the two countries are on opposing sides,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
“One of the main issues for the postponement of the Lavrov visit is the (GNA’s) plan for an operation into Sirte... which has emerged as a target.”
Sirte, about halfway between GNA-held Tripoli and LNA-held Benghazi, is the closest city to Libya’s main energy export terminals.