Turkey, France to discuss Syria, strained bilateral affairs
The Turkish and French top diplomats, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Jean Yves Le Drian, will meet in the Turkish capital on June 13 to discuss a wide-range of issues including the Syrian war, the tension in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and Turkey’s troubled European Union agenda as well as bilateral political issues.
“During the meetings, bilateral relations between Turkey and France, current regional and international developments and Turkey’s EU accession process will be discussed,” read a statement issued by the Turkish Foreign Ministry on June 13.
Ties between Ankara and Paris have recently been strained over disagreements on several bilateral and regional issues.
In May, Turkey had rejected a French statement on Ankara’s drilling activities in its own continental shelf in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, after Paris joined the international chorus that expressed concerns as Turkey launched drilling for oil and gas in the region.
On May 8, Çavuşoğlu called on France to review its ties with the YPG, which Ankara considers as the Syrian branch of the illegal PKK. In April, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted representatives of the YPG, assuring them of France’s support in the fight against ISIL.
The last spat between the two countries was on Turkey’s demand to open schools in France backed by its embassy. Ankara carries on its efforts with the French administration for the schools in accordance with the French education system within the framework of reciprocity with these schools in Turkey, a Foreign Ministry statement said on May 11 in reaction to remarks by a French minister.
French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer had stated that France does not embrace the idea of Turkey opening high schools in France because the Turkish government “wants to carry its ideology to France through these schools.”
French proposal on SAMP/T air defense system
The meeting will take place as both countries’ concerns over the situation in Idlib province of Syria increased because of intensified military operations by the Russia-backed Syrian army. Both men are expected to discuss the latest developments in the province and ways to stop the operations before they lead to a massive humanitarian tragedy.
Another important issue that would come to the table is a latest French proposal of installing a squadron of SAMP/T air defense systems on the Turkish territory in a bid to augment Turkey’s air defense.
Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar had confirmed the proposal and informed that Ankara was working on the proposal.
EU ties on agenda
Turkey’s troubled ties with the EU, particularly after the EU Commission’s yearly report suggested that the country is further distancing from Brussels will be on the agenda of talks in Ankara.
The report suggested serious backsliding of democratic values and fundamental human rights and freedoms in Turkey, with calls on the Turkish government to reverse the situation through reforms.
The French foreign minister is expected to raise the detentions of two academics Tuna Altınel, a scholar at Lyon University, and Füsun Üstel at Galatasaray University for allegedly participating in a meeting on the Kurdish issue in France. In a statement he made this week, the French minister said he would do his best to free the two academics.