France wants NATO to take cognizance of ‘Turkey problem’ in Libya

Paris warned NATO to take Turkey's 'aggressive behaviour' seriously, after a French and Turkish ship clashed, during which the Turkish frigates were allegedly very hostile towards their ally for trying to get to Libya. Turkey's role in Libya is highly criticised by Western countries.

Turkey in Libya

France’s defense ministry said NATO can’t bury its head in the sand when it comes to Turkey’s recent behavior in Libya. It also accused the Turkish navy of harassing a French warship in the Mediterranean, a charge Ankara denies.

“We have known complicated moments in the alliance, but we can’t be an ostrich and can’t pretend there isn’t a Turkey problem at NATO. We have to see it, say it, and handle it,” a ministry official said ahead of a NATO summit on Wednesday.

Turkish and French ships clash

According to defense ministry sources, a French ship participating in a NATO mission in Mediterranean waters was recently subjected to aggressive behavior by Turkish frigates, which it suspected of breaking an arms embargo and of transporting weapons to Libya.

As the French frigate queried the identity of the Turkish freighter, the vessels blocked its signal, cut the tracking system, and veiled its ID number. The French ministry described this maneuver as “extremely aggressive.”

“We cannot accept that an ally behaves like this, does this against a NATO ship under NATO command leading a NATO mission,” the official said, warning that the incident will be discussed in upcoming talks with the military bloc’s defense ministers.

Turkey denied the accusation, saying French forces had sought to search a Turkish vessel in international waters, which “was not permitted.” A Turkish official commented that Ankara expects allies “to show the same understanding and sensitivity towards the Turkish navy and its presence.”

Turkey’s role in Libya 

Earlier, on Monday, France had called for talks among NATO allies on Turkey’s role in Libya. Paris accused Ankara of thwarting cease-fire efforts by breaking the arms embargo. In response, Turkey slammed France’s “dark and inexplicable” policy on Libya and accused it of intensifying the crisis by providing support to the forces of commander Khalifa Haftar. Haftar recently suffered defeats on the ground against the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), which is supported by Ankara.

Another point of tension within the alliance derives from the continuing blockage by Turkey of NATO’s defense plan for the Baltic countries and Poland, despite a deal signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other NATO leaders last year.

According to an op-ed written for Global Village Space, European nations, including France, Greece, and Cyprus, feel threatened by Turkey’s use of Libya to extend its grip on gas-rich regional waters in violation of international law. As a result, Middle Eastern and North African disputes are becoming European problems.

Read more: War in Libya and Syria getting out of control!

Libya’s internationally recognized Islamist Government of National Accord (GNA), backed by Turkish military might, has forced rebels led by Khalifa Haftar, who is supported by Russia, Egypt, France and the UAE to retreat in recent weeks from western Libya and fight to maintain control of key cities in the center of the country.

A statement last month by the foreign ministers of France, Greece, Cyprus, the UAE, and Egypt made their concerns clear.

The statement condemned Turkey’s “illegal activities” in the Eastern Mediterranean. It called on Turkey to “fully respect the sovereignty and the sovereign rights of all states in their maritime zones in the Eastern Mediterranean.”

Israel was conspicuously absent among the signatories even though it maintains close relations with all of them.

The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), a prominent Israeli think tank, warned that “given that Israel’s ties with Turkey have been highly problematic and relations with Russia remain delicate, Jerusalem needs to prepare for the possibility of a continuing and even growing regional influence of both, especially in light of Washington’s continued reluctance to assume a more active diplomatic or military role.”

Erdogan-Trump meeting to reach consensus on Libya issue 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he reached “some agreements” with US counterpart Donald Trump over Libya during telephone talks. This comes in the backdrop of recent developments in Libya, where the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord has succeeded in beating back Haftar’s forces and wresting control of much of the land.

Read more: Erdogan-Trump meeting: reach agreement on Libya

“After our call this evening, there could be a new era between the US and Turkey regarding the (Libya) process,” Erdogan told state broadcaster TRT.

“We reached some agreements during our call” over Libya, he said, and alluded to a “possible step” the two countries could take together but offered no details.

However, indicating the significance of Moscow in the Libyan conflict, Erdogan said he would need to also hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and discuss what steps could be taken regarding Libya. This meeting would come after the Erdogan-Trump meeting, it is forecasted by analysts.

Russia has been accused of sending several thousand mercenaries from private Russian security company Wagner to support Haftar, accusations the Kremlin denies.

RT with additional input by GVS News Desk

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