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Macron accuses Erdogan of failing 'to keep word' on Libya

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Paris (AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron accused Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan Wednesday of failing "to keep his word" to end meddling in Libya, saying Ankara was sending ships with Syrian mercenaries to the conflict-torn country.

These were the latest charges set out by the French president against Erdogan on issues ranging from Syria to the Mediterranean in an increasingly strained relationship between Ankara and Paris.

"We have seen in recent days Turkish ships accompanying Syrian mercenaries arriving on Libyan territory," Macron said at a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

This deployment, he added, was "a clear violation of what President Erdogan pledged at the Berlin conference" where world leaders vowed to keep out of the Libyan conflict.

"It is a failure to keep his word," the French leader added.

Activists have accused Turkey of sending to Libya pro-Ankara Syrian fighters who hardened their skills fighting Kurdish militia and jihadists in the Syria conflict.

Ankara however has denied meddling in the conflict, with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu saying last week that only a limited number of Turkish troops were present in the country and were there for training but not to fight.

- 'Provocations of Turkey' -

Libya has been mired in chaos since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with two rival administrations vying for power.

Since April last year, the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli has fought against an offensive launched by fighters loyal to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, who controls three-quarters of Libyan territory.

Although the GNA under Fayez al-Sarraj is recognised by the UN as Libya's legitimate government, the world body's member states do not agree when it comes to the oil-rich North African country.

The GNA is backed by Qatar and Turkey, which is accused of sending hundreds Syrian fighters to Libya to shore up Sarraj's embattled government.

Turkey's parliament this month approved a bill approving a military deployment to Libya to shore up the government.

Moscow is suspected of backing Haftar but denies funding Russian mercenaries on the ground.

Earlier this month in Germany, the presidents of Russia, Turkey, France and Egypt, as well as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and UN chief Antonio Guterres attended a summit where they agreed to end meddling in Libya and to uphold a weapons embargo as part of a broader plan to end the conflict there.

Macron on Wednesday described Turkey's recent actions as "detrimental to the security of all Europeans and Sahelians" -- referring to the regions north and south of the Libyan conflict.

South of Libya, local and foreign troops are struggling to quell jihadist violence raging across Sahel states Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, and there are fears arms from the North African country could flood into the region while giving more free reign to terror groups eyeing African and European targets.

Macron also denounced what he said were "the intrusions and provocations of Turkey" against Greece and Cyprus, and announced the creation of a strategic security partnership between France and Greece.

The project, to be detailed in the coming weeks, will see an enhanced French naval presence "to ensure the full security of a strategic region for Europe," the president said.

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