Turkey gears up diplomacy for de-escalation in east Med
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, held their first conversation in months on Sept. 22 following a standoff between the two NATO allies over mounting tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.
In a statement, Turkey’s Communications Directorate said that Erdoğan told his French counterpart that Turkey advocates dialogue and cooperation to resolve problems. Ignoring the legitimate rights of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots in the eastern Mediterranean is the reason behind the tensions in the region, Erdoğan said, according to the presidency.
Diplomatic opportunities and sustainable negotiation processes implemented to reduce the tensions should be utilized, Erdoğan noted, saying Ankara “wants to discuss and solve all problems on the table.”
Erdoğan said Turkey expects a “constructive” attitude from Paris and favors consultation and communications between Turkey and France for the sake of a regular mechanism. He added that it is important to see “constructive dialogue and cooperation” at next week’s EU Leaders Summit for possible solutions to regional issues.
The EU summit, originally set for this week, was postponed to Oct. 1-2. The issue of Eastern Mediterranean was expected to be the hot topic of the meeting, with Greece, France, and Greek Cyprus had urged the EU members for sanctions against Ankara, yet the recent attempt for dialogue changed the course of the problem.
According to a statement issued by the Elysee Palace, Macron said his country was always ready for dialogue and attached importance to a solid relationship between the EU and Turkey. The issues of Libya and Syria along with the Eastern Mediterranean were discussed in the conversation, which lasted more than an hour, it said.
Macron stressed that he wanted the talks to be held in good faith and with the concern of lowering tension in the region, the statement said, adding the French leader also called for a similar dialogue to be conducted between Turkey and the Greek Cypriots. It was stated that the two leaders decided to continue the dialogue on these issues at the presidential and ministerial levels.
The phone call between the two leaders comes after top leaders from Turkey, Germany and the European Union held a video meeting on Sept. 22 focusing on the recent tensions in the eastern Mediterranean. Ankara announced the resumption of exploratory talks between Turkey and Greece, in a statement released after the trilateral meeting.
A standoff over gas exploration in contested waters of the region has seen Turkey and Greece stage rival war games and ramp up their rhetoric, but the tone has softened this week, raising hopes for a diplomatic solution.
As Paris backed Athens on the dispute, Erdoğan and Macron had traded barbs for weeks over the issue, with Turkey accusing the French leader of arrogance after he called for a tough EU stance. France also angered Turkey by sending fighter jets and vessels to the region in support of Greece.
The two leaders’ conversation came after the political mediation of Merkel between Turkey and Greece, along with the NATO secretary-general’s initiative for de-confliction meetings between the two neighbors’ military delegations, which paved the way for diplomacy among parties of dispute in the eastern Mediterranean.