"On one side, NATO sees Russia as a threat but on the other side, NATO ally France is working to increase Russia's presence there," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, June 30, 2020.
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, June 30, 2020. (AA)

Turkey has blasted France's "destructive" approach to the conflict in Libya and accused it of seeking to increase Russian presence there.

It was the latest in a string of increasingly testy exchanges between the two NATO allies over the issue.

"NATO sees Russia as a threat on the hand, but NATO-ally France is trying to increase Russia's presence in Libya on the other," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a joint news conference with his Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto on Tuesday. 

"Even though we [Turkey] appear to be on opposite sides with Russia, we are working not to worsen the situation, but to achieve a ceasefire," Cavusoglu added.

"France, which Macron governs or rather which he can't manage to govern at the moment, has been in Libya only for its own interests and ambitions with a destructive approach just like it pushed Africa to instability in the past with a colonialist approach, and like it bombed and quit Libya in 2011."

Cavusoglu went on to say that France supported "a putschist, a pirate, Khalifa Khaftar" in opposition to UN security council decisions, referring to the eastern-Libya-based warlord who is trying to topple UN-backed government.

Macron on Monday accused Turkey of "criminal responsibility" over its involvement in the Libyan conflict.

READ MORE: Libyan war: Where key international players stand

Rising tensions

Tensions have been building over the last year between Macron and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, notably when the French leader said the lack of NATO response to a Turkish anti-terror operation in northern Syria showed the alliance was undergoing "brain death".

By helping to arm and fund the warlord Haftar, French President Emmanuel Macron has undermined the legitimate and internationally recognised Libyan government and destabilised the region.

However, Macron is complaining about Turkey’s involvement in Libya, accusing Ankara of playing a “dangerous game” in the country and warning its actions will not be tolerated.

READ MORE: Turkey rejects French criticism, says Paris exacerbating Libya crisis

Turkey’s involvement in Libya is considered legal under the auspices of both Libyan and international law.

Ankara has, therefore, rubbished the suggestion that it is the party responsible for the situation in Libya and has instead pointed to France’s role.

READ MORE: How France helped Libya down a path of anarchy

Years-long chaos

Oil-rich Libya was thrown into chaos after the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Rival administrations and militias have been vying for power ever since, increasingly drawing in foreign countries and threatening the region's stability.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar in 2017.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar in 2017. (AFP)

Some analysts suspect France is backing Haftar alongside Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates, but Paris insists it is neutral in the conflict.

READ MORE: France and Tunisia seek restart of Libya negotiations

Source: TRTWorld and agencies