June 16, 2020 / 2:39 AM / a month ago

France wants talks about 'aggressive' Turkish role in Libya

PARIS (Reuters) - France wants talks with NATO allies to discuss Turkey’s increasingly “aggressive” role in Libya, a presidential official said on Monday, and the foreign ministry accused Ankara of thwarting truce efforts by breaking a U.N. arms embargo.

Turkey, which backs the internationally recognised government in Tripoli, has secured a foothold in Libya by helping to repel an assault on the capital by the Libyan National Army (LNA) of eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, who is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia.

A Turkish source said on Monday that the Tripoli government was discussing possible Turkish use of two military bases in Libya, with a view to establishing a lasting Turkish presence.

Paris has been accused of supporting Haftar politically, having previously given him military assistance to fight Islamist militants. France denies backing Haftar but has stopped short of castigating his allies, while repeatedly criticising Turkey.

In a statement on Monday, the ministry said that “foreign interference, in particular the intensification of Turkish support”, including what it said was a violation of the arms embargo, was thwarting efforts to secure a ceasefire.

“These interferences are becoming very problematic and, despite our efforts, the situation is getting bogged down. This increasingly aggressive posture is not acceptable,” the presidential official said.

“Turkey is supposed to be a NATO partner, so this cannot continue.”

Asked what Paris had in mind, the official said there would be discussions soon with Turkey and other NATO partners.

NATO defence ministers are due to hold talks on Wednesday and Thursday.

Ties between Turkey and France are already strained on issues ranging from Syria to oil exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan this month said France’s support for Haftar had “really upset” him.

Reporting by Michel Rose and John Irish; Editing by Nick Macfie and Kevin Liffey

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