Arab News, Jeddah
French President Emmanuel Macron stepped up his war of words with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday, accusing Turkey of meddling in Libya and announcing France will send warships to support Greece in its standoff with Ankara over energy reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.
Earlier, Macron accused Turkey of sending ships with Syrian mercenaries to Libya in a breach of the Berlin peace conference where world leaders agreed to stay out of the conflict.
“This is an explicit and serious infringement of what was agreed in Berlin. It’s a broken promise,” said Macron.
French paper Le Monde also quoted French intelligence claims that several Syrian mercenaries brought to Libya by Turkey have deserted and fled to Italy.
However, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry rejected Macron’s allegations as “fanciful” and blamed France for Libya’s instability.
It is not the first time ties between Elysee and Ankara have frayed. Issues including Syrian Kurdish officials meeting Macron last year, NATO, and Turkey’s oil and gas drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean have created deep fault lines between the two countries.
Oded Berkowitz, a security analyst, said the involvement of several countries in the Libyan issue complicated any potential political resolution.
“The more these countries become involved for their own interests, as for example is the case with Turkey’s official intervention in support of the GNA, the situation will further complicate,” he told Arab News.
Although the Berlin conference was “well intentioned,” its conclusions were violated almost immediately, he added.
Galip Dalay, a visiting scholar at the University of Oxford, said that “the center of crisis between Turkey and Europe is moving from Berlin to Paris.”
Amid a simmering dispute over Turkey’s energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean, Greece’s Defense Minister, Nikos Panagiotopoulos, recently accused Turkey of provocative behavior and rejected any demands to delimitarize 16 Aegean islands belonging to Greece.
Nathan Vest, a research assistant and Middle East specialist at the RAND Corporation, said Turkey and France’s heated exchange highlights the disjointed international approach to the Libyan crisis.
“While some countries, such as Germany, seek to resolve the conflict diplomatically and are working to do so in good faith, neither Turkey nor France fall into this category. Both ardently back different sides in the conflict, and both still see a military solution as viable, or at least as a means of achieving a more favorable settled resolution,” he told Arab News.
“As long as international backers of the major belligerents feel that way, the conflict will be sustained and the peace process undermined.”