After the Turkish-French incident off the Libyan coast, French President Emmanuelle Macron called the event further proof of “brain death” of NATO. He claims that Turkey’s line is incompatible with its status as a NATO country, accusing Ankara of a “dangerous game” in the region.
“I believe today that Turkey is playing a dangerous game in Libya and is contravening all the engagements that it made at the Berlin conference”, Macron said on June 22 at a joint press conference with Tunisian President Kais Said.
“We will not tolerate today the role that Turkey plays in Libya,” added Macron.
This has again sparked a series of angry articles in both countries accusing each other of exacerbating Libyan problems.
The seemingly contradictions between France and Turkey in Libya could be explained simply: Paris supports LNA head Khalifa Haftar and Ankara supports GNA head Fayez Sarraj. That is true – but the roots of contradictions lie much deeper.
The maritime conflict
Earlier, the French Ministry of Defense reported that a Turkish warship off the coast of Libya refused to carry out an order to inspect the cargo from a French ship participating in the NATO operation Sea Guardian. The French side stated that it suspected the Turkish ship of weapons for the Libyans. In response, the Turkish ship took aim at the French ship using a missile guidance radar system. In Paris, it was described as “extremely aggressive action”.
It was this incident that led Macron to return to his thesis about the brain death of the North Atlantic Alliance, which he had previously applied to the situation in Syria, again in connection with the Turkish actions against allies of terrorist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) Syrian branch, supported by France and the US.
“I refer you to my statements at the end of last year, on the brain death of NATO, I consider this to be one of the best [of this]… when we have two NATO members in a standoff”, he said.
France in Libya
General Khalifa Haftar is a longtime ally and strategically important partner for France. The French firstly contacted him after the disastrous defeat of Libyan forces in Chad led by then colonel Khalifa Haftar in 1987. Haftar was captured by Chadians trained by French military officers.
“It is no secret that France has supported warlord Khalifa Haftar since 2011 to have the upper hand over the natural resources of Libya,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said.
By supporting Haftar, Paris pursues its geopolitical and geo-economic interests.
As we have already noted, the French oil and gas giant Total is actively strengthening its presence in Libya, especially in the East, which is controlled by Haftar. During the civil war, Total was ranked second among foreign companies in Libya after Italian ENI. Moreover, Total only produced 31,000 barrels per day in 2017. In 2018, it was 63,000. In December 2019, Total acquired a stake in the US company Marathon Oil in Waha. (Sirte basin), which is under the control of Haftar troops.
In addition, Libya is important to France as a country through which a massive flow of migrants to Europe passes. To take control of this “crane” means to have an additional actor to influence the pan-European agenda. Finally, from the geostrategic point of view, it is important for Paris to secure the approaches to the former colonies of Algeria and Tunisia, as well as Mali (where the French contingent is located), Niger (where the French extract uranium) and Chad.
France’s neocolonialist and imperialist strategy
French policy towards the African region is conducted in a classic neocolonialist way, which causes great resentment among the African population.
A MORT LE NEOCOLONIALISME, A MORT LA CORRUPTION DE NOS ELITES ENDOGÈNES pic.twitter.com/plV2TeQEo8
— Kemi Seba Officiel (@KemiSeba1) May 28, 2020
The pretext for launching French operations is the fight against terrorism, but the real goal was the control of entire states.
Overall, France is interested in ensuring that its control structures in the Sahel and West Africa, undermined by corruption and Islamism, are not shaken by other players. For Political Islam, structures oriented towards Turkey are perceived as competitors.
If they win in Libya, it will affect all of North-West Africa. Turkey, for its part, has been paying close attention to Africa in recent years and its interests are extended to the zone of influence of France. Thus in January 2020, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğanvisited Algeria, Senegal and Gambia, the first two countries being former French colonies. As noted, the Turkish Foreign Ministry “as an Afro-Eurasian state” is actively increasing trade, political, cultural and military relations with African countries.
France and Turkey are confronting each other not only in Africa, but also in the Eastern Mediterranean. The region is rich in natural gas. There are large proven deposits off the coast of Israel, Egypt and Cyprus. However, the South Cypriot government decided to produce gas with the help of foreign companies without the consent of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The American company Exxonmobil, Total and ENI are involved in the field’s development. All these companies dispose of resources to which the Turkish people of Northern Cyprus are entitled without permission of TRSK.
The Energy Triangle countries (an alliance of Greece, Southern Cyprus and Israel) signed an intergovernmental agreement on the EastMed gas pipeline in Tel Aviv on March 20, 2019. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended the signing ceremony as a sign of the US support for the project. The gas pipeline will transport natural gas from offshore fields of Cyprus and Israel to Greece and, in combination with the Poseidon and IGB pipelines, to Italy and other European countries.
For Turkey, Libya’s National Consent Government has become a natural ally in the struggle for resources in the Eastern Mediterranean. In late November, Fayez Sarraj and Recep Tayyip Erdoğansigned two memorandums (on maritime delimitation and security cooperation) during the visit of the Libyan leader to Turkey.
These agreements are the implementation of the Mavi Vatan (Blue Homeland) doctrine – developed with the participation of Admiral Cem Gürdeniz. This strategy aims to expand Turkish maritime power. France is on the list of countries that have opposed this strategy.
Moreover, immediately after the Turkish-Libyan deal in January 2020, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Palestine and Egypt announced the establishment of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum. It is noteworthy that neither Turkey nor Libya became a member of this organization, yet the United States supported its establishment. In February 2020, France deployed its Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier to counter Turkish frigates sailing near the contested gas fields close to Cyprus.
On May 12, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece and the UAE jointly confronted Turkey, accusing it of violating international law in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Libya is the crossroads between Turkey and France in Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. However, the contradictions between Ankara and Paris do not stop there. France supports the Kurdish separatists associated with the Kurdistan Workers Party in Eastern Syria (PYD-YPG), even though Turkey considers them terrorists. Together with the US, the French are supporting the merger of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its opposition groups.
Against enemies and allies
On Monday, Emmanuelle Macron announced that Paris and Tunisia had jointly requested the parties in Libya to honour their commitments to resume negotiations under United Nations auspices. That step can be interpreted as France’s attempt to lead the negotiation process in Libya.
We recall that this process was moved from the deadlock after the negotiations between Recep Tayyip Erdoğanand Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in January this year. This was followed by a dialogue between the parties to the conflict in Moscow mediated by Turkey and Russia, followed by a conference in Berlin.
Despite the fact that these negotiations did not stop hostilities definitively (although they initially reduced the intensity of the conflict), by May, the situation in Libya had changed so that most think tants and the world media were confident that Turkey and Russia were taking the lead in the conflict resolution process.
Late May and early June coincided with the intensification of negotiations on Libya and the offensive of forces loyal to the UN recognized Government of National Accord (GNC) on the position of the Libyan National Army of General Khalifa Haftar. On June 1, Stephanie Williams, Acting Special Representative of the UN in Libya and former US Ambassador to this country announced the agreement of the parties to resume negotiations in the “5 + 5” format, that is, in the presence of five representatives from each side.
Later, a delegation of the Government of National Accord of Libya headed by Vice Chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya Ahmed Maiteeq and Foreign Minister Mohamed Siyala visited Moscow. Siyala left Russia for Turkey, where the Head of the Presidential Council and Prime Minister Fayez Sarrage held talks with Recep Erdogan. On June 6, Khalifa Haftar, together with the chairman of the Libyan House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh, were in Egypt, where president Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi announced his reconciliation initiative. Cairo later began threatening a military invasion of Libya, promising to stop the actions of Turkey, which supports the GNA.
At the same time, US AFRICOM began to accuse Russia of seeking to establish a military base in Libya and the transfer of planes there.
On June 22, US Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland and Commander of US Africa Command, General Stephen Townsend met with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj.
US Ambassador and AFRICOM Commander Stress Need for Military Pause and Return to Negotiations on Visit to LibyaU.S….
Turkish President Reg Tayyip Erdogan has been discussing Libya with Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump over the past month.
Turkey, Russia, Egypt and the United States have come to the forefront in their attempts to resolve the Syrian conflict. That’s why Macron is trying to get France back on track.
French media (Le Figaro and Le Monde) write that Turkey and Russia have shared Libya with each other and that Europeans are now witnessing two foreign forces in the Middle East – Russia and Turkey – realizing their expansionist interests, Turkish journalist Hilal Kaplan notes.
Macron, in his speech touched upon another important regional player, on whom the stability of the region also depends, said he shares the “legitimate concern” of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who had previously warned that an offensive by Turkish-backed forces could lead to Egyptian intervention.
As we have written before, Egypt is one of the key players in the region, on whose actions and alliances the future of northern Africa, including Libya, depends. And it is in the interest of other players to confront the emerging links between Cairo and Ankara, as the French are doing.
Instead of helping to defuse tensions between Egypt and Turkey, Paris is pushing the latter to intervene in Libya. After all, if Ankara and Cairo come to an agreement, either by themselves or through the mediation of Russia, for example, the role of other powers in Libya will be significantly reduced.
An unnatural union
İbrahim Kalın, a spokesman for the Turkish president, accused France of ” jeopardizing ” NATO’s security by supporting Haftar. Paris and Ankara are doing what they accuse each other of destroying NATO. However, the question arises as to how effective NATO is at all if it includes countries whose interests are as different as those of France and Turkey.
The current French leader Emmanuelle Macron is a pupil of the ultra-globalist Jacques Attali and a supporter of globalism, the idea of a world where there is one – the Western, Euro-Atlantic Pole. Turkey seeks to become an independent center of power, speaking more and more openly about its Eurasian essence. Turkey is oriented towards a multipolar world. Modern France is a supporter of Wester-centered unipolar world.
France is striving to preserve its neocolonial empire in Africa. Turkey is among those powers that are objectively interested in destroying French control structures blocking economic, political and military cooperation with Africans.
France, not being an East Mediterranean country, has long laid hands on the region’s wealth that does not belong to it. Turkey is seeking its share, which the Turkish people have been deprived of by the French, the Americans and their allies.
Turkey’s disagreements with NATO are not limited to the problems between Paris and Ankara. Even more tension exists in US-Turkish relations (support for PYD-YPG, the Eastern Mediterranean, the US harbouring Fethullah Gulen). There is no point in even talking about Greece.
Even Italy, which seems to be on the same side as Turkey in Libya, is on the same side as France on the issue of Eastern Mediterranean development, while Italian experts call on France and Italy to jointly oust Turkey and Russia from Libya.
Conflicts in the strategic vision of the world order divide France and Turkey as well as specific interests. To this are added the contradictions of the Republic of Turkey with other NATO countries.
The question arises as to how advantageous and justified for Turkey is the membership in the alliance, which not only does not support its interests, but also limits the actions of Ankara. For example, in the event of a conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean or Libya, NATO will not support Turkey, but now Ankara must still take into consideration the Alliance’s opinion in making its decisions.
This situation will naturally push Ankara to withdraw from the Alliance and find new partners outside it. China and Russia, which are actively penetrating Africa, can become natural partners in the fight against the influence of France and the US in this region. In the Eastern Mediterranean, the interests of Russia, which is not interested in the EastMed pipeline (a competitor to Gazmprom’s projects), also overlap with those of Turkey. From the standpoint of deterrence promoted by the US, France and Israel, Turkey’s interests coincide with those of Syria and Iran around the separatist Kurdish projects.
However, in light of all these various directions, Ankara’s interests bring it closer to NATO’s opponents rather than its formal “allies”.