PARIS (Reuters) - France’s foreign ministry on Friday rebuffed U.S. assertions that a European Union naval mission to enforce a U.N. weapons embargo for Libya was biased and not serious, saying Washington should itself be doing more to stop the flow of weapons.
David Schenker, assistant secretary for Near East Affairs at the U.S. State Department, said on Thursday Europe should go beyond limiting arms-supply interdictions to Turkey by designating Russian military contractor Wagner Group and calling out Moscow and other countries such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt over the issue.
In response to Schenker’s comments, French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll told reporters: “We call on all our partners - starting with the United States - to step up their action, as the European Union is doing, to hinder recurrent violations of the arms embargo and to help relaunch a political process inclusive.”
Turkey has intervened decisively in recent weeks in Libya, providing air support, weapons and allied fighters from Syria to help the internationally recognised government based in Tripoli repel a year-long assault by the forces of eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, who is backed by the UAE, Egypt and Russia.
Turkey accuses France of supporting Haftar politically, having previously given him military assistance to fight Islamist militants.
France denies this, but relations between the two NATO allies have frayed with Paris repeatedly pointing the finger at Ankara over its role in Libya, while never publicly criticising Egypt or the UAE for their role.
“France is actively participating in this important operation in the context of increased foreign interference in the Libyan conflict, which we have condemned in the strongest terms,” Von der Muhll said.
The United Nations has previously cited the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Turkey for breaching the embargo.
Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Mark Heinrich