Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Monday called “scandalous” a recent statement by the French president calling for the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Libya, stressing that it is a deliberate attempt to equate the presence of the Republic of Turkey to the country with certain paramilitary forces.
Speaking to reporters as the meeting of the Central Decision and Leadership Council of the AK Party (MKYK) was underway on Monday, Ömer Çelik said: “Turkey is not there as a paramilitary force. Turkey is there de facto. It does not exist as a militant force. . It is there for training purposes at the invitation of the legitimate government recognized by the United Nations.”
Çelik was referring to remarks made by French President Emmanuel Macron at the recent international conference on Libya in Paris.
“It is a deliberate mistake to equate the existence of the Republic of Turkey with certain paramilitary forces,” he said. “Seeing Turkey as a foreign soldier is a deliberate mistake, a policy of lies, deliberate propaganda.”
Claiming that Macron was making “the mistake of reducing all French foreign policy to anti-Turkish relations”, Çelik added that Turkey and France had deep-rooted ties and that “it’s wrong” to support a rivalry between the two countries.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar also reaffirmed on Tuesday that the presence of Turkish forces in Libya was the result of bilateral agreements between the two countries.
“We carry out military training, aid and advisory activities. One thing must be clearly understood, we are certainly not a foreign power in Libya,” he said.
Akar said if there is development in the name of stability in Libya and if the political process has started, it has become possible with Turkey’s contributions.
“The Libyan authorities also express this truth. Our goal is to ensure the territorial integrity and political unity of Libya with the understanding of ‘Libya belongs to the Libyans’ and to contribute to the formation of a stable Libya” , did he declare.
The North African country has been embroiled in civil war since the toppling of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in an uprising in 2011. The bloodshed has drawn competing Libyan factions and extremist groups as well as foreign powers.
According to an agreement with the legitimate government in Libya, Turkey sent troops to reinforce the United Nations-recognized government in Tripoli while Russia and other countries, including France, supported the illegitimate forces based in Libya. Is led by putschist General Khalifa Haftar.
France itself has been accused of backing Haftar, but has always insisted it has been fully objective in the conflict. Although French weapons were found at a base used by pro-Haftar forces in 2019, Paris has dismissed the claims.
World leaders and diplomats gathered in France on Friday for an international conference aimed at ensuring Libya sticks to its plan to hold elections in December and turn a new page in its history. Turkey only sent a low-level delegation to Paris in a sign of continued dissatisfaction with Macron’s foreign policy stance.
Security sources in Ankara have repeatedly stressed that the Turkish forces cannot be called foreign fighters, unlike the Russian mercenary group Wagner, because the Turkish soldiers are in the country at the official invitation of the Libyan government.
In April 2019, Haftar and his forces, backed by Egypt, Russia, France and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), launched an offensive in an attempt to seize the capital, Tripoli. His 14-month campaign collapsed and Tripoli’s fall was prevented after Turkey stepped up military support for the UN-backed government.
Ties between NATO allies France and Turkey have soured in recent years over Libya, northern Syria, drilling in the eastern Mediterranean and the anti-Muslim policies adopted by the Macron government. .
Sanctions against the Wagner Group
Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers have reached a political agreement to sanction Russian mercenary company the Wagner Group, the EU’s foreign policy chief said on Monday.
“We discussed the possible involvement of the Wagner group. There was a consensus to move forward to take restrictive measures against this group,” Josep Borrell told reporters after the meeting of senior EU diplomats. .
He explained that the decision must first be prepared at the technical level by establishing a list of people and entities to be targeted.
The measures against the Wagner Group are part of a broader sanctions regime that senior EU diplomats have agreed to in response to the crisis in the West African nation of Mali.
The US Department of Defense considers the private mercenary company a proxy force for the Russian state.
The Wagner Group has been deployed in Crimea and eastern Ukraine since 2014.
According to reports, they have also intervened in the Syrian war, as well as in the conflicts in Libya, Sudan, Mali and the Central African Republic.
In 2020, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pointed to 2,000 Wager mercenaries fighting in Libya to support Haftar.