July 1, 2020 / 12:52 PM / a month ago

As ties fray, Turkey accuses France of bias over Libya

PARIS (Reuters) - Turkey’s ambassador to Paris accused France of having a biased policy over Libya, turning a blind eye to suspected violations of a U.N. arms embargo by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt to the benefit of eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar.

Turkey has intervened decisively in recent weeks in Libya, providing air support, weapons and allied fighters from Syria to help the internationally recognised government based in Tripoli repel a year-long assault by Haftar, who is backed by the UAE, Egypt and Russia.

“When one supports the legitimate government we’re accused of playing a dangerous game but when some countries like Egypt and the UAE support Haftar, then they are deemed legitimate and it’s not dangerous. I’d call that biased, no?,” envoy Ismail Hakki Musa told a hearing of French senators.

The United Nations has previously named the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Turkey for breaching the embargo.

A joint statement issued in February by 13 countries involved in Libya, included Egypt, UAE and Turkey, said there had been a discussion on the “deplorable” arms embargo violations and “renewed determination to contribute to its thorough implementation”.

Ties between NATO allies France and Turkey have soured in recent weeks over Libya, as well as the conflict in northern Syria and drilling in the eastern Mediterranean.

The animosity was aggravated in June after an incident between Turkish and French warships over an attempt to inspect a vessel that was suspected of smuggling weapons to Libya.

Turkey accuses Paris of supporting Haftar politically, having previously given him military assistance to fight Islamist militants. It denies this. President Emmanuel Macron this week said Turkey had a “criminal responsibility” in the country.

When asked about the Turkish comments, a French official said Paris had never been ambiguous in condemning all arms violations, but said that Turkey’s intervention and attitude towards NATO allies created a specific threat to France and Europe’s interests unlike the UAE.

Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Richard Lough and Alison Williams

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