A row between France and Turkey over a pledge by world leaders not to interfere in Libya has escalated after a French aircraft carrier reportedly spotted a Turkish frigate operating in breach of a UN arms embargo on the country.
Hours after French President Emmanuel Macron had accused Ankara of breaking its promise to stay out of the Libyan civil conflict, the French Navy’s flagship Charles de Gaulle identified a Turkish vessel which appeared to be accompanying a cargo ship carrying armored vehicles to Libya’s capital Tripoli, AFP reported a French military source as saying.
Macron claimed that Turkish ships had been seen in recent days escorting boats loaded with Syrian mercenaries heading to Libyan battlegrounds in defiance of a UN arms embargo that has been in effect since February 2011.
Under the ruling, all supplies of arms and military equipment to and from Libya are banned.
Speaking before Thursday’s UN Security Council meeting, UN special representative for Libya Ghassan Salame warned that the intervention of foreign actors in Libya’s conflict by resupplying warring factions threatened “to precipitate a new and much more dangerous conflagration.”
During the UN discussions on Libya, Salame urged “the parties and their foreign sponsors to desist from reckless actions and instead renew their expressed commitment to work toward a cease-fire.”
Turkey supports the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord against fighters aligned with eastern commander Gen. Khalifa Haftar ,who currently controls almost three quarters of Libyan territory.
Aydin Sezer, a Turkish political analyst, said Turkey could well be condemned by the UN if the French claim is proven.
However, the Turkish Foreign Ministry put the blame on France for Libya’s instability, claiming that Paris gave “unconditional support” to Haftar for grasping the country’s energy reserves.
Although the Turkish Parliament approved in January a motion to give the green light to military deployment to Libya, Ankara claims that it has only dispatched a small number of Turkish troops to help with the training of local forces.
Experts do not expect an immediate sanctions against Turkey.
Dr. Willem Theo Oosterveld, a senior fellow at the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, said it is not very likely that the EU will impose sanctions on Turkey as a result of Turkey’s arms embargo violation due to the disagreement between the EU members on Libya issue.
“And they would not want to further escalate tension with Turkey as there is already an ongoing dispute in the Eastern Med over gas drillings, for which the EU already adopted a sanctions framework back in 2019. Also, there is little appetite to see Turkey put pressure on the EU-Turkey deal as a new migration pact is to be discussed among EU member states in the coming months,” he told Arab News.