Paris has not only violated the UN's arms embargo, but has made desperate attempts to normalise Khalifa Haftar's aggression.

The UN-recognised government of Libya is slowly and steadily regaining control of territories lost to warlord Khalifa Haftar since 2015, and France, a NATO member, is not happy about it. 

The French foreign ministry on Monday accused Turkey of playing an 'aggressive' role in Libya, negating Ankara's efforts to safeguard the internationally-recognised government led by Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj from Haftar's unruly militias

Regional experts were quick to call out France's anti-Turkey stance. Ankara-based Middle East and North Africa analyst, Ali Bakeer, tweeted that "France’s position vis-à-vis Turkey on Libya stems from its colonial past & seeing Africa as its backyard".

"If Paris wants to complain to NATO, it will be judged because France is on the same pro- Haftar team with Russia".

Although France has feigned ignorance when it comes to supplying weapons and offering logistical support to Haftar's forces, its active involvement in the conflict dates back to 2015. It was at this time that Haftar emerged as a troublemaker in the conflict, someone hellbent on reversing whatever little peace and stability the UN-backed government had tried to secure in Libya.  

Much to the shock and embarrassment of the Macron administration, Paris's position on Libya was revealed in 2016 when three undercover French soldiers died in a helicopter crash in Benghazi.  

Since the event, France has time and again come under international scrutiny over its shady role in Libya's civil war. For one, it has violated the UN arms embargo on several occasions. In July 2019, a Pentagon investigation concluded that Paris had supplied American-made anti-tank missiles to Haftar's forces. Each missile is worth $170,000 and the US only sells it to "close allies," such as France. 

Contradicting the UN's position on the Libyan conflict, which was to assist Sarraj's government and involve other rival forces for a peaceful transition of power, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian publicly expressed support for the Egyptian air strikes against the GNA. 

Le Drian is known to be the architect of France’s Libya policy. He has reportedly convinced French president Emmanual Macron that Libya was a "low-hanging fruit" and Haftar was the man to place all the bets on. 

According to French newspaper Le Monde, France has gone out of its way to ensure the warlord is fully armed, even deploying French special forces for the training of his militias. 

Along the way, Paris ended up antagonising its NATO partner, Italy. Matteo Salvini, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister, last year accused France of supporting Haftar and showing "no interest in stabilising the situation". 

Salvini went on with his critique and declared that its European neighbour was going against NATO's position on Libya because its oil interests were opposed to those of Italy. 

It's the economy, stupid

Libya has the largest proven crude oil reserves in the African continent. It has a capacity to generate 48.4 billion barrels. Under Muammar Gaddafi's rule, it produced 1.6 million barrels per day and exported them mainly to Italy and France. 

Many regional experts say France's policy towards the tiny North African country is largely driven by its economic interests rather than spreading democracy - an excuse the US and its European allies used to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. For Macron, therefore, shaping a warlord into a strongman who could deliver on the promise of supplying oil to France, is an advantageous option for the administration. In March 2018, Paris even helped a French company, Total, purchase a major stake in Libya's Waha Oil Company for $450 million. 

Macron's insistence on involving Haftar in the Paris Summit last year, sparked criticism. According to Libya expert, Jalel Harchaoui, it was a stark reminder that "France is helping transform him from a rogue warlord into a legitimate political actor, thereby encouraging his plans to conquer and rule the country as a whole. 

"The Paris summit is thus unlikely to lead to a near-term solution to the country’s civil war," Harchaoui documented in Foreign Affairs last year.

Source: TRT World