France Calls on EU to Discuss Relationship with Turkey
France’s foreign minister on Wednesday called on its European Union partners to hold urgent talks on the bloc’s future relations with Turkey, which has clashed with Paris over its role in Libya.
Ties between NATO allies France and Turkey have soured in recent weeks. Paris has criticized Turkey’s military support for the Government of National Accord in Libya and its role in the Syria conflict. Turkey’s drilling operations in the eastern Mediterranean are also a point of contention.
“France considers it essential that the European Union extremely quickly opens a substantive discussion, with nothing ruled out, without being naive, about the prospects for the future relationship of the European Union with Ankara,” minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told lawmakers.
The EU must firmly defend its own interests, he added.
On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron accused Turkey of playing “a dangerous game” in Libya. Turkey hit back on Tuesday, saying Macron must have suffered an “eclipse of the mind” to oppose Ankara’s support for the Tripoli government.
“We need clarifications on the role Turkey intends to play in Libya where I believe that we are witnessing a Syrianization,” Le Drian said, referring to Syrian fighters Ankara had brought in to Libya.
Greece also slammed Turkey for undermining stability and security in the eastern Mediterranean and causing problems with all of its neighbors, while also violating Greek airspace and territorial waters daily.
Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias slammed Turkey’s actions in recent months in the Aegean Sea, which separates the two countries, saying Ankara must “abstain from its illegal gunboat diplomacy.”
Dendias was speaking during a visit to Greece’s northeastern border with Turkey, and was accompanied by the European Union’s foreign policy chief.
NATO allies and neighbors Greece and Turkey have long had difficult relations, and the two countries have come to the brink of war three times since the 1970s. Divided over a series of issues, including territorial disputes in the Aegean, relations have become increasingly strained in recent months.
Earlier this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared the borders with Europe were open to migrants living in Turkey who wanted to head into the European Union. Although Turkey also shares a border with EU member Bulgaria, it was only on the Greek land border crossing that tens of thousands of migrants gathered, demanding to be allowed to cross.
Dendias described the action as “the exploitation, on the part of Turkey, of the hopes of tens of thousands of civilians for a better life ... misled through a disinformation campaign orchestrated by Turkish officials at the highest level.”
Dendias and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell toured the border crossing area in the Evros region where the migrants had gathered in late February.
“It’s very clear that we are determined to protect the external borders of the European Union and to strongly support Greece’s sovereignty,” Borrell said.
Greece and Turkey are also in dispute over oil and gas exploratory drilling rights in the Mediterranean, with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt outraged at a Turkish agreement with the GNA laying claim to rights of a swathe of the Mediterranean that they say infringes on their sovereign rights.