Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian met on June 7 in Paris as part of their joint efforts to normalize relations after a stormy period that caused deep divergences on both bilateral issues and regional developments.
Çavuşoğlu said on June 7 that the ministers discussed bilateral relations as well as regional and international developments.
“We plan to strengthen our relations with France on the basis of mutual respect,” he said in a Twitter post.
The ties between the two NATO allies have been strained since Turkey’s cross-border operation in northern Syria in late 2019 and were further escalated during the summer of 2020 due to the Turkish-Greek tension in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey’s active presence in Libya and contribution to Azerbaijan’s liberation of its lands from the Armenian occupation have also caused resentment in Paris.
On the other hand, the French deployment of naval forces in the eastern Mediterranean to support Greece and its continued alliance with Greece, Greek Cyprus, Israel and Egypt at the expense of isolating Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots from the hydrocarbon activities have angered Ankara.
Turkey and France sought to de-escalate the tensions in the last six months as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and French President Emmanuel Macron held a videoconference meeting in early March where they pledged to work together to resolve the differences.
The exchange of dialogue between the foreign ministries of the two countries recently increased particularly on issues concerning Syria and Libya, along with other regional issues.
At the same time, the meeting between Çavuşoğlu and le Drian came before a series of important diplomatic events that will have an impact on the future of Turkey-Europe ties. The EU Council will convene on June 24-25 to discuss ties with Turkey and whether it will give a formal mandate to the European Commission to launch negotiations with the Turkish government for the modernization of the customs union.
‘Turkey, France to continue to enjoy friendly relations’
In an op-ed Çavuşoğu wrote for the French daily L’Opinion, he said that Turkey and France will continue to enjoy friendly relations.
“Turkey and France are two friendly and allied countries. And they will remain so. We must ensure that no misunderstanding comes to disturb this relationship of friendship to which we are sincerely attached,” he wrote.
He said relations between Ankara and Paris went through a period of tension, which is unusual for two allied countries.
Recalling that contact was established between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and French President Emmanuel Macron, he said it gave them an opportunity to consolidate ties.
He said Ankara and Paris now share a growing number of common interests regarding regional issues, which recently made the two countries oppose each other.
Turkey and France share the same priorities on many significant subjects regarding Syria, he said, including the delivery of humanitarian aid, the need to move forward in the political process and preserving the country’s territorial integrity.
The Turkish minister said “sincere and fruitful” discussions were held with France on Syria, adding: “As for our disagreements relating to the collaboration of our allies with the YPG/PKK terrorists in their fight against Daesh, they can only be overcome when this cooperation ceases definitively.”
Stressing that no one can deny that fighting Daesh/ISIS is not the real aim of the YPG/PKK terrorists, Çavuşoğlu said the terror group aims to divide Syria and form a terror corridor along the borders of NATO member countries and Europe.
“Our allies must understand that this terrorist organization is a threat to our national security and that it cannot be ignored,” he said.
Common priorities in Libya
The minister said Turkey and France share some priorities in Libya, such as the stability and political unity of the country, support for the Government of National Unity exercising its power throughout the country and for the reunification of institutions, a lasting cease-fire, as well as the fight against terrorism and irregular migration.
“We are open to dialogue on issues of common interest in Libya, whose stability affects the entire region,” he noted.
On issues in the Eastern Mediterranean, Çavuşoğlu said disputes between Turkey and Greece are now being handled with calm dialogue within the framework of various mechanisms between the two countries.
Turkey has never had any expansionist ambitions, he said, adding this dialogue with Greece is another confirmation of this.
“On the Cyprus issue, Turkey will support the efforts of the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots if they agree on the objectives of the negotiations,” he said.
Recalling the failures of previous initiatives between the two sides of the island, Çavuşoğlu said Ankara believes that only efforts based on the principles of sovereign equality and equal international status stand a chance of reaching a solution.