29 January – 4 February 2020: War of words between France and Turkey escalates

Feb 5, 2020 | International actors

On 29 January, UN Envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salamé gave his 17th brief to the UN Security Council (UNSC) where he expressed serious concern about the ongoing violence in southern Tripoli. He said, “I regret to report that the truce holds only in name.” He explained that the artillery exchanges have significantly increased in Tripoli, with an associated increase in civilian casualties, due the use of indiscriminate shelling.

On 29 January, following sightings of two Turkish frigates off the coast of Tripoli, the Turkish government confirmed it had four frigates and a refuelling vessel in the central Mediterranean to support NATO operations in the region and to “conduct activities to ensure the security of maritime trade routes”. It claimed that the vessels were outside Libya’s territorial waters.

The same day, French President Emmanuel Macron accused Turkey of a “serious and explicit” infringement of the agreements made at the Berlin conference on 19 January, stressing that Turkish warships and Syrian mercenaries had arrived on Libyan shores in the last few days. Ankara responded by accusing Macron of being responsible for the current crisis in Libya, claiming France had provided “unconditional” support to Haftar’s forces in order to secure influence over Libya’s natural resources, thereby undermining the legitimate government in Tripoli.

Macron’s accusations came after he met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Paris on 29 January. The meeting focused on the controversial maritime agreement signed between Turkey and the GNA in late November which asserts Turkish jurisdiction over swathes of the eastern Mediterranean, despite the presence of Greek and Cypriot territorial waters. Macron pledged an enhanced strategic relationship with Greece and greater cooperation, including joint exercises at sea and on land.

On 30 January, while attending the African Union’s (AU) High-Level Committee on Libya in Brazzaville, Congo, Algerian Prime Minister Abdulaziz Djerad proposed that his country host a Libya “reconciliation forum” on behalf of the AU. The AU stated it had “taken note” of the Algerian offer. The event was attended by a GNA delegation, which included its head, Fayez al-Serraj, as well as a delegation of Libyan National Army (LNA) representatives – though neither parties met face to face.

On 2 February, Algeria’s President, Abdulmajid Tebboune, proposed a meeting for Libya’s multiple “tribes” to be held in a regional country in order to create a solution to the current Libya crisis.. The Algerian president said the solution for the crisis should originate from the Libyan people, without the interference of foreign countries.