The French president has accused Turkey of importing a large number of fighters to Libya, calling Ankara’s intervention “criminal”.
Emmanuel Macron also castigated Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambivalence towards his country’s mercenaries operating in the oil-rich North African state.
Turkey recently intervened decisively in Libya, providing air support, weapons and allied fighters from Syria to help the internationally recognized Tripoli-based government repel a 14-month attack by renegade commander-in-chief Khalifa Haftar .
“I think it is a historic and criminal responsibility for a country that claims to be a member of NATO,” Macron said on Monday of Turkey’s role in Libya.
Without providing any evidence on the nature of the fighters, he said that Turkey “massively imported” them from Syria.
“Dragging Libya into chaos”
Last week, Turkey strongly criticized France, saying that Paris aims to restore “the old colonial regime” in the North African country.
“Because of the support it has given to illegitimate structures for years, France has an important responsibility in dragging Libya into chaos,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy.
“The Libyan people will never forget the damage that France has inflicted on this country.”
Macron denied supporting the forces based east of Haftar, saying that France supports the search for a “political solution”.
Links between NATO allies, France and Turkey have been soured in recent weeks over Libya, northern Syria and drilling in the eastern Mediterranean.
Tensions intensified following an incident on June 10 between Turkish warships and a French warship in the Mediterranean, which France considers a hostile act under NATO’s rules of engagement .
Turkey has denied harassing the French frigate.
Paris has been accused of politically supporting Haftar, having previously provided him with military assistance.
France has long denied supporting Haftar, but has repeatedly criticized its allies, particularly the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which has also been singled out by the United Nations for violating an arms embargo on Libya.
Battle for Sirte
Haftar’s so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) is supported by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia. In recent weeks, French authorities have repeatedly said that Turkish intervention has allowed Russia to establish itself more in Libya.
Thousands of Russian mercenaries, as well as fighters from Sudan and Chad are said to be on their way to the strategic city of Sirte, as the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) moves to take the city.
Allied forces at Haftar have released a video showing the deployment of military reinforcements from Benghazi, where eastern forces are based toward Sirte, 570 km (354 miles) to the west.
Reinforcements included Sudanese and Chadian fighters, as well as more than 3,000 Russian mercenaries, sources told Al Jazeera.
The GNA, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, has announced that it is determined to end the “occupation” of the cities of Sirte and Jufra by foreign fighters.
Control of Sirte also means control of crucial ports for exporting Libya’s vast oil wealth.
Macron spoke to Putin on Friday, but did not denounce Moscow as he did with Ankara. He said the two leaders agreed to work towards the common goal of a ceasefire in Libya.
Macron said Monday that Putin had told him that private entrepreneurs fighting in Libya did not represent Russia.
“I told him of my very clear condemnation of the actions carried out by the Wagner force … He plays on this ambivalence,” said the French president.
Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a NATO-backed uprising overthrew leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was later killed.
The country has been mainly divided between rival administrations in the east and west, each supported by armed groups and various foreign governments.