Tensions between Turkey and France have escalated over Libya. The latter is part of a group of countries infuriated by putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s most recent military defeats. Having failed to stop a Turkish vessel en route to Tripoli, Paris now seeks to limit Ankara’s room to maneuver through the European Union and NATO. French President Emmanuel Macron announced that his government would not allow Turkey’s “dangerous game” in Libya, as his foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, urged the EU to discuss the future of its relationship with the Turks “with nothing ruled out, without being naive.” He attempted to justify his call with reference to the organization’s own interests.
Ankara’s intervention in Libya fueled a fresh debate in European and Middle Eastern capitals on Turkey's role in the world. Reflecting the view that Turkey has evolved into a more powerful player, that discussion has two dimensions: First, it concentrates on the concrete shifts in the balance of power in Syria, Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean. At the same time, it is a propaganda war with lots of speculation about "real" intentions. It would be impossible to make sense of Turkey’s most recent moves, capabilities and objectives without distinguishing those two aspects.
Libya has become a major focal point of the power struggle in the Eastern Mediterranean. That country’s future is directly related to energy politics, European security and North Africa’s stability. The United States Africa Command’s (AFRICOM) most recent announcement about Russian aircraft bombing Libyan government forces in Sirte demonstrated how closely Washington is watching the Russian presence in Libya – despite major distractions like the upcoming presidential election.
Tensions have once again peaked between Turkey and Greece over a number of traditional disputes involving the Aegean and Cyprus, as well as over recent disagreements regarding maritime jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean. Athens has attempted to invalidate Turkey’s November 2019 agreement with Libya to limit Turkish control over area in the Eastern Mediterranean spanning to the Gulf of Antalya. Athens believes it can pursue an unjust and maximalist policy with support from France, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Greek Cypriots. Given the recent dispute over the Aegean continental shelf, the Eastern Mediterranean has emerged as the main platform for a renewed rivalry between Turkey and Greece.