France’s Macron sends letter to improve ties with Turkey
SERKAN DEMİRTAŞ - KARACHI/ANKARA
French President Emmanuel Macron has sent a reply letter to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a bid to fix ruined ties and to further improve them, the top Turkish diplomat has announced, informing about an Ankara-Paris deal to work on four main titles, including differences on regional conflicts, namely Syria and Libya.
“In the letter, President Macron expresses the importance of Turkey for Europe and his will to develop positive ties with Turkey as well as to meet our president in the coming period. It’s a very positive letter with some parts in Turkish. Our president has welcomed it and agreed to meet President Macron. An initial meeting may take place via videoconference,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told a group of reporters on his return from a three-day trip to Pakistan on late Jan. 14. Macron’s letter is a reply to President Erdoğan’s New Year message to France, the minister informed.
Ties between the two allies were severely strained in 2020 due to some bilateral rows and regional conflicts from Syria to Libya and from Nagorno-Karabakh to the eastern Mediterranean. In parallel with de-escalation in the eastern Med in early December 2020, Çavuşoğlu and French Foreign Minister Jean Yves le Drian decided to end this negative trend in ties and launch a road map for reconciliation.
As a result of diplomatic contacts between the two countries, a mutual understanding to work on four main titles was reached, Çavuşoğlu said, listing them as “bilateral relations and consultations, fight against terror, regional issues including Syria and Libya and cooperation in the field of education.”
“I hope France will not repeat the same mistakes it committed in the context of our Operation Peace Spring. Of course, this (reconciliation) process will positively impact our bilateral ties, relations with the European Union, and on the regional issues,” the minister stressed.
Turkey-EU to focus on renewing the migrant deal
Next week will witness an important visit by Çavuşoğlu to Brussels where he will hold intensive meetings with top EU officials, including European Council President Charles Michel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the EU’s foreign and security representative Josep Borrell. His meetings on Jan. 21 and 22 will prepare Michel and Leyen’s trip to Ankara where they will meet President Erdoğan later this month.
One of the issues to be discussed in Brussels will be the renewal of the 2016-dated migrant deal between Turkey and the EU, Çavuşoğlu said, recalling that Borrell has not yet replied to Ankara’s proposals concerning the new version of the deal. “During this trip, we will discuss this issue. The fifth anniversary of our migrant deal with the EU is nearing. Updating it will be one of the concrete steps we should take with the EU,” he stated.
Turkish Cypriots must join Med Conference
Çavuşoğlu and Borrell will also discuss Turkey’s proposals for an international conference on the eastern Mediterranean that includes littoral countries and countries whose companies are involved in hydrocarbon activities.
“We have not received any response from the EU yet. We will talk about it on Jan. 21. I think the biggest problem for them is the participation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. What we have told them is that ‘either two (Turkish and Greek Cypriot) leaders attend or we don’t approve the presence of the Greek Cyprus at the conference as we don’t recognize it’,” Çavuşoğlu explained.
Turkey, Greece to talk ‘all issues’
Another important date is Jan. 25 when Turkish and Greek officials will resume exploratory talks after nearly five years of a hiatus. “This will be the 61st meeting. Whatever issues were discussed in 60 meetings will be discussed in the 61st meeting. So, there is no just maritime delimitation issue,” Çavuşoğlu said, referring to Athens’ insistence that talks should only address the delimitation of the maritime zones.
“It would be meaningless to single out only one issue and discuss it while other controversial issues may still pose a risk on ties. We will discuss all the recent developments, military moves, NAVTEXs and NOTAMs, etc. Exploratory talks include all these things. There is no need to muddy the waters. These may sound like efforts to escape from the talks,” he underlined.
Talks will occur in Istanbul and will help the two parties to find out where they are and how to proceed, Çavuşoğlu said, urging, “But if they say they do not want to discuss these matters, then holding exploratory talks will have no meaning.”
Turkey ready to work with Biden team
All eyes will be in Washington on Jan. 20 as President-elect Joe Biden will take over the White House from Donald Trump. It will also mark a new era on ties between Turkey and the United States after ups and downs due to the S-400 crisis and the latter’s support to the YPG, a group Ankara considers terrorists, in Syria.
“There can be good days and bad days in our relationship, but we will exert genuine effort for the improvement of our bonds. We expect the same approach from the Biden administration, too,” the minister said. Turkey’s geopolitical role and location are much more crucial and important and the new administration is fully aware of this, Çavuşoğlu said, “Well, we know what our problems are and we know what steps we can take. I envisage a more predictable process. And we are ready (to work with the U.S.).”
Turkey is familiar with around 90 percent of the senior officials to serve in the new administration, including the new CIA chief, but that does not mean that this connection will resolve all the pending problems, he suggested. “On the other hand, we also know McGurk. The problem on the YPG started during the Obama term in which Biden was serving as the Vice President. I hope we will overcome this problem under Biden,” he said. Brett McGurk had served as the U.S. special envoy in the fight against ISIL and is known to be one of the architects of the American decision to partner with the YPG as the local force in east Syria despite Ankara’s opposition.
“Plus, they have an S-400 problem. We will see how we will handle it with the new government after Trump imposed sanctions. We will renew our proposal to set up a joint committee to deal with the technical concerns of the U.S. about the S-400s,” Çavuşoğlu stated.
Warm messages from UAE, Egypt
The Turkish diplomacy is currently receiving warm messages from both the United Arab Emirates and Egypt as the Gulf countries have lifted a blockade on Qatar, one of Turkey’s top regional allies. “Positive messages are coming from the UAE, but we want to see concrete things as well. Because we never had anything negative against them,” Çavuşoğlu said, referring to a recent statement by the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash on ties with Turkey.
“We found his statements positive. If they want and they are sincere, we will also fix our ties with the UAE,” said the minister.
Likewise, Turkey is also ready to take positive steps towards Egypt if Cairo is also committed to mending ties, Çavuşoğlu said, informing about the recent exchange of views between the two sides’ intelligence and diplomats.
“Again, we have re-activated a principle that stipulates not to take a stance against each other at NATO and the Organization of Islamic Conference. Also, we have taken mutual positive steps and made mutual gestures. We can put things back on track through such confidence-building actions.”