Duvar English / Reuters

Turkey and France have engaged in a war of words after the latter accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of failing “to keep his word” to end meddling in Libya.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Jan. 29 claimed that Turkish ships accompanying Syrian mercenaries arrived on Libyan territory in recent days, saying this action was a “clear violation” of what Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan promised at the Berlin conference on Jan. 19 where world leaders vowed to stay out of the Libyan conflict.

“I want to express my concerns with regard to the behavior of Turkey at the moment, which is in complete contradiction with what President Tayyip Erdoğan committed to at the Berlin conference,” Macron told a joint news conference with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

“We have seen during these last days Turkish warships accompanied by Syrian mercenaries arrive on Libyan soil. This is an explicit and serious infringement of what was agreed in Berlin. It’s a broken promise,” Macron said.

Pictures unverified by Reuters on social media appeared to show Turkish warships off the coast of Libya on Jan. 29.

Without naming them, the United Nations on Jan. 25 said several countries backing rival factions in Libya had violated the arms embargo since Berlin.

It said cargo planes full of advanced weapons, armoured vehicles, advisers and fighters had arrived at eastern and western Libyan airports, something that risked “plunging the country into a renewed and intensified round of fighting”.

Macron made no mention of violations from any other countries except NATO ally Turkey.

Turkey says France to blame for Libya instability

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the accusations as “fanciful” and blamed France for Libya’s instability.

“The main (actor) responsible for the problems in Libya since the crisis started in 2011 is France,” Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement issued late on Jan. 29.

“It’s no secret that this country has given unconditional support to [military strongman Khalifa] Haftar in order to have a say regarding natural resources in Libya,” he said, adding that Macron “was once again trying to set the agenda with fanciful claims.”

The comments came a week after the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Russia – which all back eastern Libyan military commander Haftar – and Turkey – which backs the government in Tripoli – agreed with Western powers in Berlin to push for a lasting ceasefire and uphold an arms embargo.

However, since then there has been an uptick in fighting with Haftar’s Libyan National Army attempting to open a new front by moving forces towards the city of Misrata in the west of the country.

Paris has been accused of supporting Haftar politically having previously provided him with military assistance. France denies backing Haftar.

Libya has had no stable central authority since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. It has had two rival governments, in the east and the west, for more than five years.