French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday accused fellow NATO member Turkey of “criminal responsibility” over its involvement in the Libyan conflict, in an escalating row with Ankara.
Turkey has increased its military presence “and massively re-imported extremist fighters from Syria” even after foreign powers agreed earlier this year to end their meddling and respect a UN arms embargo, Macron told reporters.
“I think this is a historic and criminal responsibility for someone who claims to be a member of NATO,” Macron said after holding talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at Meseberg castle near Berlin.
Turkey’s conduct in Libya is “unacceptable to us,” Macron said, adding that the moment had come for Ankara to “urgently clarify” its stance.
Ankara supports Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in the conflict against rebel strongman Khalifa Haftar.
France is suspected by analysts of backing Haftar alongside Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates, but insists it is neutral in the conflict.
Oil-rich Libya was thrown into chaos after veteran dictator Muammar Qaddafi was ousted in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising.
Rival administrations and militias have been vying for power ever since, increasingly drawing in foreign countries and threatening the region’s stability.
Macron last Monday accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government of playing a “dangerous game” in the north African country that could no longer be tolerated.
Turkey fired back the following day, saying it was “actually France which is playing a dangerous game in Libya” by supporting military leader Haftar in his campaign to take Tripoli.
Tensions have risen over the last year between Macron and Erdogan, notably when the French leader said the lack of NATO response to a unilateral Turkish operation in northern Syria showed the alliance was undergoing “brain death.”
The Ankara-Paris strains soared further this month when France denounced an “extremely aggressive” intervention by Turkish ships against a French navy vessel participating in a NATO mission in the Mediterranean, a claim Ankara dismissed as “groundless.”