Turkey rushed to Paris but the French kiss is not coming
I really doubt if there was any other country that rejoiced so much when François Hollande was elected as France’s new president in May. This came after the French Constitutional Court’s February decision repealing the law criminalizing denial of the Armenians’ claims of genocide.
After the terrible Sarko years, a light at the end of the tunnel appeared to put relations back on track. Turkey ended sanctions against France in June following a meeting between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Hollande.
“We can see that Hollande has the will to work through problems,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had said, explaining the logic behind the decision and defining the future of Hollande’s presidency as a new page in bilateral relations.
Ankara at that time ignored statements made by Hollande during the electoral campaign that he would seek ways to rework the denial bill despite the court’s ruling. There is no evidence that Hollande might have discreetly told Erdoğan that he would not take action about his campaign promise and gain time by telling the Armenians that they are looking for a way to bypass the country’s highest legal authority.
Ankara might have thought that the court’s ruling had so well buried the denial bill that it was safe to think Hollande will drag its feet for a long time and thus decided to lift the sanctions.
The rationale behind the decision was also to encourage Hollande not to revisit the Armenian issue, along with the belief that the move would also serve as an incentive for the Socialist president to lift Sarkozy’s veto over EU accession talks.
Actually, the satisfaction of seeing Hollande winning the elections stemmed more from the hope of seeing the French lift their veto over five chapters on accession talks than the hope of seeing a more pro-Turkish approach on the Armenian problem. The belief that Hollande’s staff was more aware of the strategic importance of Turkey, and less fanatical in their objections to Turkey’s entry into the EU, naturally led to the expectation that Hollande would take the decision to lift the veto.
Well, that decision has not come yet. The French are saying it would have been untimely to do so during the Greek Cypriot presidency. Fair enough. But Ankara is not getting reassuring messages from the French that the expected decision will come right after the end of the Greek Cypriot presidency. The French so far have told the Turks they might hold out an invitation to start an “exercise to talk about it.”
What’s clear is that the climate in relations has changed. Turkey-bashing has ended; there is much better dialogue on regional and international issues and an especially intense cooperation on the Syrian crisis.
But we have to recall that Ankara told Nicolas Sarkozy’s France that so long as the veto is there, the French should not expect bilateral ties to thrive as if there is no abnormality on the EU side.
The current situation is not sustainable and the “Hollande Spring” in bilateral ties might come to an end if the French don’t make up their mind by winter.