European Foreign Minister Josep Borrell on Tuesday condemned Turkey’s « interference » in the conflict in Libya after a meeting in Brussels with French foreign ministers, Germany, l ‘Italy and the United Kingdom.
Asked by journalists about a joint press release condemning “foreign interference” without further details, he stressed: “It is obvious that this refers to the Turkish decision to intervene with troops (on the ground) in Libya” .
It is « something we reject and which increases our concerns about the situation » in this country, he said.
Borrell and four of his EU counterparts met urgently on Tuesday to discuss the situation in Libya where Marshal Khalifa Haftar continues his offensive targeting Tripoli.
The forces of Khalifa Haftar, a strong man from the east of the country, supported in particular by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, announced Monday that they have captured the entire city of Sirte, hitherto controlled by the government of Tripoli.
Europeans fear that Ankara’s military intervention in support of this UN-recognized government of national unity (GNA) could worsen the situation.
« Libya has become a place where other powers wage war by interposed forces, and we no longer want to accept it, » said German Minister Heiko Maas upon arriving in Brussels.
He met with his British counterparts Dominic Raab, French Jean-Yves Le Drian and Italian Luigi Di Maio.
« Libya does not only represent a risk for migratory phenomena, it is a risk (…) also for the danger of terrorism, » said the Italian minister, who was then expected in Turkey.
Messrs. Maas, Le Drian and Raab then discussed the other hot issue of the day: the consequences of the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani on Friday in an American raid on Baghdad.
The United Kingdom, France and Germany are co-signers of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, from which US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw in 2018 by reactivating a sanctions regime, the starting point for the news crisis between Washington and Tehran.
And now this agreement is hanging by a thread, much to the chagrin of Europeans. « This nuclear agreement is today in danger because it has been partially emptied of its substance, » said French Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne in Paris.
Le Drian said the Europeans could decide « in the next few days » to trigger a mechanism under the agreement, which could lead to the reinstatement of UN sanctions against Iran.
As early as Sunday, Tehran announced the lifting of all limits to its equipment in centrifuges, used for the production of nuclear fuel.
A decision that Josep Borrell said Monday “deeply regret”. He called a special meeting of EU foreign ministers for Friday.
« We continue to believe that this is an important agreement that will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb, » Heiko Maas said on Tuesday.
Avoid “more violence and provocation”
This diplomatic activity took place in the aftermath of a scramble over a possible withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. The United States had to deny such a withdrawal, first announced in a letter sent in error on Monday.
The Iraqi parliament on Sunday urged the government to expel foreign troops from Iraq in a vote in response to the death of General Soleimani.
After this assassination by an American drone strike, Tehran promised revenge. And on Tuesday, the Iranian parliament urgently adopted a law classifying all the American armed forces as “terrorists”.
For its part, NATO announced Tuesday the temporary withdrawal of part of its personnel from Iraq, after having already suspended its mission to train the Iraqi forces, a consequence of the high tensions between Washington and Tehran.
Atlantic Alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg asked Iran on Monday to avoid « more violence and provocation ».