‘France trying to increase Russia’s presence in Libya’

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ANKARA

Turkey on Tuesday accused NATO ally France of trying to increase Russia’s role in Libya, despite the fact that the alliance sees Moscow as a threat.

“NATO sees Russia as a threat on the hand, but NATO ally France is trying to increase Russia’s presence in Libya on the other,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a joint news conference with his Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto.

“Even though we [Turkey] appear to be on opposite sides with Russia, we are working not to worsen the situation, but to achieve a cease-fire,” Cavusoglu added.

He went on saying that France supported “a putschist, a pirate, Khalifa Khaftar” in opposition to UN Security Council decisions, referring to the renegade general based in eastern Libya.

Libya has been torn by a civil war since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The country’s new government was founded in 2015 under a UN-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political settlement failed due to a military offensive by Haftar’s forces.

The UN recognizes the Libyan government headed by Fayez al-Sarraj as the country’s legitimate authority. Tripoli has battled Haftar’s militias since April 2019, a conflict that has taken over 1,000 lives.

Under a military pact with Libya signed last November, Turkey sent military advisers to assist in the battle against Haftar’s forces.

After the discovery of mass graves in areas left behind by retreating Haftar militias, the UN and international jurists have expressed concern over possible war crimes.

Haftar has been supported internationally by Russia, France, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates.

Turkey’s EU bid

For his part, Szijjarto said Turkey and Hungary agreed on the stabilization of Libya and he called on the EU to cooperate with Turkey for the stability of civil war-torn country.

On Turkey-EU relations, the Hungarian foreign minister described Turkey as an “important partner” for the EU and stressed the importance of cooperation with Turkey on security and economic issues.

“It is necessary to express the conditions clearly,” he said, referring to Turkey’s EU accession process.

“If an agreement will be made, let’s do it. If there is something that is not done or not fulfilled, let’s say it clearly,” he added.

“If this strategic partnership does not happen, it will have irreplaceable shortcomings for the EU,” he added.

Turkey applied for EU membership in 1987 and accession talks began in 2005. But negotiations stalled in 2007 due to objections by the Greek Cypriot administration, Germany and France.

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