Erdoğan, Macron to meet in Paris over Syria, Jerusalem
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will make his first foreign visit of 2018 to Paris on Jan. 5 to meet his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.
The visit is notable as the Turkish president has in recent years rarely traveled to Europe amid frosty ties between Ankara and a number of European capitals.
“Jerusalem, Syria, Iraq and Turkey-EU relations and regional issues, particularly the fight against terrorism [will be discussed],” Turkish Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said regarding Erdoğan’s trip to Paris.
“[The visit] will serve to further advance our cooperation with France in a way that will benefit both our nations and the entire region,” Kalın said in a written statement on Dec. 31.
“France is an important commercial and economic partner, a prominent ally with which we have around six centuries of history and multi-dimensional relationships,” he added, noting that Turkey and France pursue “intense dialogue at all levels on global and regional issues, especially in the fight against terrorism.”
“Our deeply rooted relationships are further reinforced by major projects in a wide range of mutual investments: Energy, defense industry, science and technology, transport, culture and education. The Turkish people living in France, with a population of about 700,000, act as a bridge between our countries,” Kalın said.
Relations between Ankara and the European Union have deteriorated, particularly since the July 2016 coup attempt which has been followed by the arrest of tens of thousands of people across Turkey and a continued state of emergency.
However, Erdoğan has recently expressed hope about securing a better relationship with the EU.
In September, Macron said ties between Turkey and the EU should be maintained even if Ankara strayed from the EU path.
He also described U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to shift the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem as “regrettable.” Trump’s move stirred concern among Western allies and outrage in the Arab world, and summit of members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation was convened in Istanbul on Dec. 13, during which East Jerusalem was recognized as the capital of Palestine.
One possible point of contention between Erdoğan and Macron is Syria. The Turkish president earlier this week made a number of harsh comments regarding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, calling him a “terrorist” and saying it was impossible for peace efforts in Syria to continue if he did not leave power. The French president, meanwhile, said recently that Paris would push for peace talks involving “all parties” involved the six-year Syrian conflict, including al-Assad, promising “initiatives” early next year.
An Elysee source told Reuters that “the question of human rights will also be raised” when Erdoğan and Macron meet.
Since Macron was elected earlier in 2017, he and Erdoğan have held regular phone conversations about the situation in Syria, cooperation against terrorism, and the issue of French citizens jailed in Turkey.
Macron personally asked his Turkish counterpart to free detained French journalist Loup Bureau during several telephone conversations. Bureau was jailed for more than seven weeks on “terror” charges but was returned to France in September after Macron’s appeal.
Macron has been careful to not anger Ankara since taking office, but in an interview with Le Point magazine in August he said “being on the world stage is not so easy,” citing the fact that “I am the one who has to talk with Erdoğan every 10 days.”