Macron’s targeting of Turkey reveals ambiguities in France’s policies in MENA

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In an attempt to rally the European Union to impose sanctions on Turkey for its role in Libya and its presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, France in July called on EU foreign ministers to meet to discuss ” the Turkish question, ”claiming new sanctions against Ankara could be considered. However, while targeting only Turkey regarding the Libyan conflict, French President Emmanuel Macron remains complicit in the threats of interference from Egypt, the crimes of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) while being soft-shelled in the face of Russia and his Wagner. Group mercenaries.“Turkey has for some time been a subject of heated debate in Europe in general and in France in particular. In fact, under the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), and of President (Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan in particular, Turkey has succeeded in asserting its autonomy, sovereignty and independence in world affairs ”, Dr. Jana Jabbour, researcher and professor at Sciences Po Paris and expert on Turkish foreign policy, told Daily Sabah. She added that Turkey had “awakened in the European mentality the memory of the powerful Ottoman Empire which has defeated the European powers in many battles throughout history”.

Jabbour said that in Europe and France, today’s Turkey arouses not only the fears of the past, the fears of the “all-powerful Turkish” but also the fears of a strong Islamic society. “In this sense, Islamophobia in Europe is crystallizing around Turkey because Turkey under President Erdoğan is seen as the embodiment of a strong and assertive ‘other’ Muslim.”

“Turkophobia and Islamophobia feed off each other,” she added.

Ties between France and Turkey, NATO allies, have deteriorated in recent months over Libya, as well as over the conflict in northern Syria and drilling in the eastern Mediterranean. Frenchman Macron, after meeting Tunisian President Kais Saied in Paris on June 22, accused Turkey of “playing a dangerous game” and of “criminal responsibility” in the Libyan conflict. Animosity escalated in June after an incident between Turkish and French warships over an attempted inspection of a ship suspected of smuggling arms to Libya.

On July 24, Macron, at a joint press conference with Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades, reiterated that it would be a serious EU mistake not to respond to provocations in the Eastern Mediterranean and that “the EU is doing still too little ”opposite. of Turkey’s activities.

Speaking to the Daily Sabah, France-based journalist Ömer Aydın said that Paris’ fear of losing its influence in the region was the reason it had become stronger and more daring towards Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, in Libya and Syria and thanks to its support for the PKK, a terrorist group recognized by the United States and the EU.

Tensions intensified as Libya increasingly became the EU’s agenda, alongside growing rivalry and Turkey’s support for the official Libyan government as well as a maritime and military pact with Tripoli.

Oil-rich Libya has been torn apart by violence, attracting tribal militias, extremists and mercenaries since the NATO intervention in 2011 and the murder of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who did not managed to improve things. Although the new government was founded in 2015 as part of a United Nations-led agreement, efforts for a long-term political settlement proved unsuccessful due to a military offensive by coup leader General Khalifa Haftar.

Hafter, a self-proclaimed warlord based in eastern Libya, has launched an offensive in an attempt to take the capital Tripoli and control of the country from the Legitimate Government of National Accord (GNA), with support from the United Arab Emirates , Egypt and France. , Russia and thousands of mercenaries from the Wagner group known to have close ties to the Kremlin. Weapons and mercenaries poured in to support the warlord, hampering UN efforts. Still, with Turkish backing, the GNA managed to thwart the warlord’s 16-month campaign and made significant gains, pushing Haftar’s forces out of Tripoli and the strategic city of Tarhuna.

Mass graves filled with corpses were found after the retirement of Haftar, who is supported by at least two permanent members of the UN Security Council. The findings raised fears about the scale of human rights violations in territories previously controlled by Haftar’s forces, given documentation difficulties in an active war zone. In addition to this recent discovery, Haftar is also known to have practiced torture, desecration, mass displacement and massacres.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), those who commit, order, assist or hold responsibility for war crimes in Libya are liable to prosecution in national courts or the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has a mandate over crimes of war, crimes against humanity and genocide committed there since February 15, 2011.

Following the increase in foreign support and human rights violations in this North African country, the former UN envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, in early July accused member states of “hypocrisy” regarding their activities in Libya. “You could clearly see that (Haftar) was convinced that a number of the great powers were supporting this attack and he mentioned some of them by name,” Salame said.

Turning a blind eye to violations

“That Macron only accuses Turkey – which supports the government recognized by the United Nations and, at least officially, by France itself – is puzzling, but it reveals the ambiguities of France regarding Libya,” said last week Bruno Stagno Ugarte of HRW, adding that Paris itself “most likely violated the 2011 arms embargo imposed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), of which France is a permanent member”.

The deputy director of the human rights group mentioned last July the discovery of French missiles on a base south of the capital Tripoli belonging to militias loyal to Haftar. France admitted the weapons belonged to them but denied supplying them to Haftar in violation of a UN arms embargo, saying French forces in Libya had lost track.

Although ostensibly seeking a political solution and a permanent peace for this war-torn country, France supported Haftar. Kenneth Roth, executive director of HRW, wrote on Twitter on July 25 that the French government supported Haftar in part because it saw him as a bulwark against terrorists and Paris had failed to calculate the chaos Haftar had fomented.

France has been cleverly silent on a UN report revealing that two Dubai-based companies sent Western mercenaries to support Haftar in his offensive as well as reports from rights groups showing that the UAE killed civilians in Libya. Likewise, Macron has remained silent on the repeated interference in Libya by his ally, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, whose parliament recently, in a move likely to escalate tensions, approved a proposal that authorizes a military intervention in neighboring Libya. The Libyan government has called the decision a “declaration of war”.

Although Macron has raised his voice somewhat recently regarding the activities of the Wagner mercenaries, Russia still largely escapes Macron’s condemnations.

France’s sphere of influence is eroding

France, which had once been an important player in the Middle East and North Africa, has gradually lost its sphere of influence with its former colonies declaring its independence and withdrawal from the Levant. Conversely, Turkey has become a game-changer in the region.

Aydın explained that “Paris still sees itself as the dominant power in the Islamic world. France has established its scope of influence in North Africa and the Middle East in this regard and does not want to lose it.

Stressing that France’s economic interests can be spotted in its relations with the UAE and its position on Libya, Jabbour said that “friendship with the UAE is a lucrative business for Paris”.

“France supports all of the UAE’s biases in the MENA region conflicts, as France and UAE seem to share the same perception of the threat of political Islam and have common economic interests. The UAE is buying French arms and encouraging their allies to do the same, ”Jabbour continued.

However, economic interests remain insufficient to explain the ultimate objective of the French president. It is clear that Macron intends to lead Europe after his statements about an EU more independent of the United States in terms of defense and security as well as his ‘brain dead’ comments on the NATO alliance . The United States, as a superpower slowly disappearing from the world stage and failing to take the American leadership, could also push France to take the lead, as the position appears to be vacant.

“It seems that thanks to an active engagement in Libya, President Macron wishes to gain popularity in his country and in Europe, showing that he is a strong leader who dares to act on risky fronts,” Jabbour stressed, saying that the young man of 42 years The leader also takes advantage of the inaction of the United States in Libya to show that France can take the head of NATO.

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