France’s Macron denounces Turkey’s attitude in Libya

International

Tunisian President Kais Saied, left, is welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron for bilateral talks at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Monday, June 22, 2020. Tunisian President Kais Saied is for a two-day visit in France. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday that Turkey’s attitude in Libya is “unacceptable” as France sees Ankara as an obstacle to securing a cease-fire in the conflict-torn country.

Macron spoke at an evening news conference with Tunisian President Kais Saied in Paris.

Macron urged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to end his country’s actions in Libya.

“I consider today that Turkey plays in Libya a dangerous game and is in breach of all its commitments,” he said.

Macron said he discussed the issue with U.S. President Donald Trump in a phone call earlier on Monday.

The White House said the two leaders agreed on the urgent need for a cease-fire in Libya and for the rapid resumption of negotiations by the Libyan parties. Trump and Macron reiterated that military escalation on all sides must stop immediately to prevent the Libyan conflict from becoming even more dangerous and intractable.

Tensions between France and Turkey escalated following a June 10 incident between Turkish warships and a French naval vessel in the Mediterranean, which France considers a hostile act under NATO’s rules of engagement. Turkey has denied harassing the French frigate.

France accused Ankara of repeated violations of the U.N. arms embargo on conflict-torn Libya.

Libya has been in turmoil since 2011 when a NATO-backed uprising toppled leader Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed.

The country has since been split between rival administrations in the east and the west, each backed by armed groups and different foreign governments.

On his first trip to Europe since he was elected in October last year, Saied is also the first head of state to visit France since the lockdown of the country amid the pandemic. Virus restrictions enforced in France in mid-March have almost all been lifted in recent weeks.

Tunisia has strong political and economic ties with France, its former colonial power.

Monday’s meeting in Paris, followed by a dinner at the Elysee presidential palace, also comes less than two weeks after Tunisia’s parliament rejected a motion calling on France to apologize for crimes permitted during the colonial era and pay reparations.

Opponents argued that such a move would spell economic disaster, given that France is Tunisia’s top trading partner and No. 1 foreign investor. It’s also home to 1 million Tunisians.

But proponents of the motion said an apology is necessary to “turn the page on this dark period” in the history of the two countries and put their relations on a more equal footing.

The debate came amid renewed anger in some European countries about colonialism’s crimes, stemming from protests in the U.S. over racial injustice and police violence after the death of George Floyd.

France occupied Tunisia as a protectorate for 75 years, from 1881 until 1956. French soldiers only left Tunisian territory in 1963.

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AP writer Nancy Benac in Washington contributed to the story.

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