Erdoğan to go to Hollande after Syria support

Erdoğan to go to Hollande after Syria support

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan wants to go to Paris to have talks with French President François Hollande as soon as the parties are able to arrange a suitable date, diplomatic sources have told the Hürriyet Daily News.

The issue was brought up by Erdoğan during a telephone conversation between the two presidents on Oct. 8, after Hollande expressed his country’s support for the Turkish government’s plan to establish safe havens for Syrian refugees and opposition forces under a no-fly zone in Syrian air space along the Turkish border. As of the afternoon of Oct. 14 there was no date set for the visit, but the French side has signaled that it could take place soon.

Both France and Turkey are members of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), which is carrying out a brutal armed campaign in Iraq and Syria. France is taking part in the military dimension of the coalition with air strikes, but Turkey - on top of its humanitarian, intelligence and logistical support - has only agreed to contribute to the training and equipping of the “moderate” Syrian opposition against ISIL.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu once again reiterated the government’s position on Oct. 14 that the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus is as much of a threat to regional security as ISIL, and is also the root cause of the latter. This is the basis of the safe-zone idea, but not many countries in the anti-ISIL coalition subscribe to Ankara’s line. Russia and Iran, as the two main supporters of the al-Assad regime, are also warning everyone, including Turkey, to stay out.

That is why French support to Ankara’s plan is very valuable for Erdoğan. It does not mean that the safe-zone plan will be accepted with only French support, but it has broken the image in the West of a Turkey isolated over its Syria stance. It has led Erdoğan to remember France as a friend in the European Union too.

So when Hollande, again on Oct. 14, also called on Turkey to let military aid reach Kurdish fighters in Kobane, or Ayn al-Arab, a Kurdish-populated Syrian town near the Turkish border that has been under ISIL attack for the last three weeks, the Turkish government gave no serious reaction. A similar urging from any other Western country could have been responded to strongly, but Hollande’s words were taken as a “friendly” call. Perhaps Turkey will even start providing direct help as a response to Hollande’s call, for example by opening up a corridor for volunteers who want to fight. This would also give credit to France in the eyes of other coalition members.

Turkish-French relations are likely to prosper in this atmosphere.

Meanwhile, details of these issues were discussed during a seminar of the Bosphorus Institute in Istanbul on Oct. 13, organized by the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSIAD) with the participation of  two Cabinet ministers, Volkan Bozkır on the Turkish side and Jean Marié Le Guen on the French side.

The ostensible subject of the seminar was the never-ending Turkish application to become a member of the EU, and TÜSIAD Chairman Haluk Dinçer called on the French government to lead the opening up of new negotiation chapters. But the real interest was about new cooperation possibilities in the energy sector. France is already a part of Turkey’s scheduled second nuclear power plant - the first one being made by the Russians, but there is still more to come, after the first step for the construction of a 1,850 km pipeline to carry Azerbaijani gas to Europe was taken in Ankara on Oct. 14. This carries the distant possibility of Kurdish oil and gas from Iraq flowing into the same route once the dust settles, if and when ISIL is defeated.