At NATO, Macron and Erdogan meet after months of insults

Recep Tayyip Erodgan and Emmanuel Macron during a press conference on the situation in Syria, October 27, 2018

DIPLOMACY – For two years, the litany of grievances between Ankara and Paris has taken on proportions worthy of the Bosporus, the strait that separates the Asian and European continents in Istanbul. The differences have affected the “mental health” of Emmanuel Macron as well as the bellicose inclinations of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the conflicts in Libya, Syria, Nagorny Karabach, including the purchase of Russian S- missiles. 400 by Ankara, Charlie Hebdo and the passing of the separatism law in France.

So many subjects which have made the land between France and Turkey a real minefield and which question the way in which the interview planned between Emmanuel Macron and Recep Tayyip Erdogan this Monday, June 14, just before the NATO summit , could go well. “It takes a lot of composure after such violent words. But what Emmanuel Macron says is true: even if the differences are deep, we still have to talk to each other ”, assures the HuffPost, Marc Pierini, former EU Ambassador to Turkey and researcher at Carnegie Europe.

At a press conference on Thursday 10, the President of the Republic had notably justified this interview by the need “to talk to each other”. “We have sometimes led controversies, and we accept them, but whatever the disagreements, we must always talk to each other”, he defended.

For Marc Pierini, as for Jean Marcou, professor at Science-Po Grenoble, specialist in Turkey also joined by Then24, the tension between the two countries had reached such a degree that there was hardly any other choice “but to bounce back” anyway. “There are limits to degradation within the framework of international agreements binding France and Turkey. There is NATO of course, but Turkey is also present in the Council of Europe. It couldn’t go any further, ”explains Jean Marcou.

Paris and Ankara for a “return to normal”

In fact, this interview also comes after several months of “warming” or “lull” between the two countries. The departure of Donald Trump and the arrival of Joe Biden have led to a restructuring in international relations and partly cleared the way for a resumption of the diplomatic game in its more classic form. “It’s a huge loss for Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It was Trump who gave in and authorized the withdrawal of American troops from northeastern Syria, causing an uproar. Joe Biden, on the other hand, is the return of a confident transatlantic dialogue ”, recalls Marc Pierini. It was also the former Republican president who had played for time to postpone the imposition of sanctions on Ankara after the purchase of Russian missiles.

With regard to Paris, “this return to normal”, as Marc Pierini describes it, resulted in an attempt to seduce via a forum by the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs in L’Opinion, a meeting with his counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian last week, or a videoconference meeting between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Emmanuel Macron last March. Ankara is also participating in discussions with Greece regarding the situation in the eastern Mediterranean, where a French frigate was targeted by Turkish fire radars on three occasions last June.

“More generally, it is a warming of Turkish-Western relations, points out Jean Marcou. We are witnessing a kind of repolarization in the world, and Turkey, which used to make the big difference especially with Russia, will have to choose ”. Paris was not alone in its weariness recalls Marc Pierini: “Even in Germany, Ankara began to annoy after its outings on ‘Nazism in Berlin’”.

Domestically, Recep Tayyip Erdogan also has every interest in calming discontent in a dismal economic and health context after the Covid pandemic. “The AKP is targeted by accusations of corruption, pollution by sea snot arrives in the middle of the tourist season, and especially when Turkey intervened little militarily, it has multiplied the operations in recent years, which worries the Turks” , explains Jean Marcou.

Another more distant horizon: the presidential elections which will take place in 2023 and which will mark the centenary of the Republic of Turkey. “It’s a bit like the moment when Erdogan will become the equivalent of Ataturk [le père fondateur de la République turque, NDLR]. Finally for the West, Recep Tayyip Erdogan left to stay so as much normalize relations as much as possible without lowering their guard ”, adds Marc Pierini for his part. All in a context where Turkey is increasingly blacklisted regarding the human rights situation on its territory.

Can Macron trust Erdogan?

Will this interview and the NATO summit mark the entry of new diplomatic software on Ankara’s side? “Last year, Recep Tayyip Erdogan managed a series of blows, with a very tactical foreign policy which illustrates his personality well. But it was almost too well played because the result at the end of 2020 is a very strong isolation of Turkey, including with the Arab-Muslim world, and against countries like Iran or Russia. On the other hand, even if things are going well with Macron and at NATO, some files are detachable and will remain litigation files ”, notes Jean Marcou who points in particular to the separatism bill in France.

For Marc Pierini, Turkey’s change of footing will not happen overnight. The former ambassador rather foresees a “progress by small steps”, but says not to expect “a U-turn on the question of Syria or the Russian missiles S-400”, which moreover cost Ankara its place in an American stealth aircraft manufacturing program. These two points will be crucial during the NATO summit but also during the meeting with Emmanuel Macron. “When we are members of the same organization, we cannot decide to take equipment which does not allow interoperability, we cannot decide to conduct unilateral operations which are contrary to the interests of the coalitions we have built” , had himself indicated the French president Thursday.

Emmanuel Macron will have several levers to make himself heard with his counterpart on Monday, and first and foremost the weight of France in the EU, both in the gas dossier in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the updating of the customs union. between Brussels and Ankara. In the longer term, anticipates Jean Marcou, Recep Tayyip Erdogan could give pledges of goodwill on the African ground and why not a military collaboration while Emmanuel Macron has announced a profound transformation of Operation Barkhane in the Sahel? “France is very alone in Africa in its fight against terrorism, there is little support. Turkey is developing its bases in Chad and Somalia. If relations warm up, she could play a role in a coalition ”.

See also on Then24: Ursula von der Leyen victim of a protocol incident in full meeting with Erdogan

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