For French President Emmanuel Macron, the moment of truth in his conflict with the Turkish leadership is approaching at a rapid pace. On the eve of September 10, the French leader, while hosting the summit of Mediterranean countries MED7 (France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, and Malta) in Corsica, again attacked his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan with sharp criticism. He also received an immediate and even sharper response from official Ankara. Bobby Gosh, a political analyst, writes about it on the Bloomberg agency website on Friday.
In his opinion, Macron’s “verbal volleys” have already lost their force. The owner of the Elysee Palace called on MED7 partners to establish the “red lines” for Turkey, which he spoke about at the end of last month. The main purpose of Paris is to stop the “Turkish provocation” in the Eastern Mediterranean by sending Ankara to this region, the exclusive economic zone of other coastal countries, research ships, and demonstrations of naval power. However, of the “Mediterranean seven”, France alone is burning with the desire to “punish” Turkey by engaging in a prolonged confrontation with it, Gauche noted.
“That leaves Macron with two options: to accept or to continue bending his own line,” the political observer wrote.
In any case, it’s hard to imagine that Macron’s rhetoric alone, however harsh it may be against Turkey, will force Erdogan to recall his research vessels and the warships that accompany them from the eastern Mediterranean Sea, he continues.
“France cannot hope for military support from its NATO partners for another member of the North Atlantic Alliance. Although the U.S. has eased the long-standing U.S. arms embargo against Cyprus, it is unlikely it will support stricter measures against Erdogan, whose opinion President Donald Trump listens to,” the expert states.
Another “challenge” for Macron is the position of Germany, which currently holds the presidency in the European Union. Chancellor Angela Merkel demonstrates with all her appearance that she is set on a diplomatic rather than military-political wave of resolving disagreements with Turkey, she is trying to achieve a settlement of the dispute between Turkey and Greece exclusively through negotiations. Although the EU has warned Ankara about possible sanctions against her, in reality, many in Europe, including its economic locomotive Germany, are unwilling to seriously spoil relations with its southern neighbor. Germany is home to a multimillion-dollar Turkish community, Ankara showed earlier in the year, before the pandemic hit the world, how flows of refugees from its territory can cause enormous problems for Europeans.
“Merkel is unlikely to be able to arrange for Macron tossing weapons while she negotiates peace… So, despite the presence of six other European leaders in Corsica, France is the only major (European) power willing to confront Turkey. Macron has other crises that require his attention. In France, the incidence of coronavirus infection is rising alarmingly again. His economic stimulus plan, dubbed “France Relaunch” and launched last week, calls for 100 billion euros in support for local businesses that still need to be found. France is also engaged in other external crises: Lebanon, Libya, and Mali. Under these circumstances, it would be wise for the president of the Fifth Republic to contain the rhetorical fire in the Eastern Mediterranean dispute and leave the case to the German chancellor,” Bobby Gauche concluded.
As reported TP Ankara strongly condemns the attacks of the French President against the Turkish leadership. “Macron does not abandon attempts to smear Ankara against the backdrop of the failure of Paris’ anti-Turkish foreign policy plans,” a statement issued by the Turkish Foreign Ministry on September 10 said. The owner of the Elysee Palace “is driven by the reflexes of the former colonizer, arrogantly trying to teach others,” his statements are an indicator of helplessness and despair, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Ankara pointed out that “the times when France could freely promote its interests in the world are left behind,” and earlier decisions taken with the participation of the Turkish side to delimit the exclusive economic zone in the Mediterranean Sea have nothing to do with Macron’s powers.
“Instead of acting as an ‘attorney’ for Greece and Greek Cyprus taking unilateral and provocative steps contrary to the interests of the European Union, Paris should have been called for dialogue and agreement in the region. The principles of the NATO alliance and common European interests demand this. The nationalism and ambitions of the French President contribute to the growth of tension in the region, jeopardizing the interests of Europe,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry noted.
President Macron last Thursday before the opening of the MED7 summit called on Europe to speak with one voice against Turkey’s “unacceptable” behavior.
“We Europeans must be clear and firm about President Erdogan’s government, which today behaves in an unacceptable manner,” Macron told journalists in French Corsica.
According to him, at the moment Turkey “is no longer a partner in the region” of the Eastern Mediterranean due to its behavior, although Paris continues to hope for the resumption of a fruitful dialogue with Ankara.
A few days earlier, on September 4, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, had criticized the French President by using rather an offensive language for the master of the Elysian Palace. According to the head of Turkish diplomacy, the French leader “got hysterical” because of the development of the Libyan and Syrian conflicts, as well as the dispute over borders in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Relations between Turkey and France, NATO’s nominal allies, have sharply deteriorated amidst disagreements in Syria, Libya, and the Turkish-Hellenic dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean. Ankara accuses Paris of supporting Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who opposes the Turkish-led National Accord Government (NTC) in Tripoli.
Turkey and Greece announced in late August that they would conduct a military exercise in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, between Cyprus and Crete. France joined a military exercise with Italy, Greece, and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean, which was held from 26 to 28 August. In the military department of the largest country in Western Europe previously explained that three French multi-purpose fighter Rafale and one frigate with a helicopter onboard became part of joint maneuvers.
Turkey had previously extended the exploration mission of its research vessel Oruç Reis in the Eastern Mediterranean, which had led to increased tensions in the region. Exploration work on gas and oil will continue until September 12. Oruç Reis is protected by a special Turkish flotilla. The decision was taken by the Turkish side after European Union officials called for dialogue with Ankara on the parties to the heated conflict, while simultaneously demanding that it refrain from unilateral steps in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Greek Foreign Ministry called the extension of the Turkish research mission illegal and called on the neighboring country to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation and continue working to ensure stability in the region.
Turkey is claiming certain maritime areas under an agreement it signed with the Libyan NTC in November 2019. Last month, Greece and Egypt concluded their own agreement to delineate their exclusive economic zones in the Eastern Mediterranean, which led to an increased escalation in the region. Greece insists that it has exclusive rights to operate in those areas of the Mediterranean where Turkey is trying to conduct test drilling in search of new oil and gas fields. Ankara, in turn, refers to the terms of the agreement concluded with the UN-recognized Libyan government in Tripoli.
In mid-July, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias called on EU partners to prepare economic sanctions against Turkey if it does not stop exploration in the Greek economic zone. French President Emmanuelle Macron showed readiness to support Athens in this endeavor.