The French foreign minister on June 24 called on France’s European Union partners to hold urgent talks on the bloc’s future relations with Turkey. Paris and Ankara have this week exchanged tense statements over the latter’s role in the Libyan civil war.
France is also unhappy with Turkey over other matters, including its participation in the Syria conflict, failure to stop migrants flooding towards the Greek border and its drilling operations in the eastern Mediterranean which the EU claims infringes territorial waters of Cyprus.
“France considers it essential that the European Union extremely quickly opens a substantive discussion, with nothing ruled out, without being naive, about the prospects for the future relationship of the European Union with Ankara,” France’s top diplomat, Jean-Yves Le Drian, told lawmakers, as reported by Reuters.
The EU must firmly defend its own interests, he added.
On June 22, French President Emmanuel Macron accused Turkey of playing “a dangerous game” in Libya. Turkey hit back the following day, saying Macron must have suffered an “eclipse of the mind” to oppose Ankara’s support for the Tripoli government.
“We need clarifications on the role Turkey intends to play in Libya where I believe that we are witnessing a Syrianisation,” Le Drian added, referring to Syrian fighters Ankara had transferred to the Libyan conflict.
Also on June 24, Greece’s foreign minister accused Turkey of undermining stability and security in the eastern Mediterranean and causing problems with all of its neighbours, while also violating Greek airspace and territorial waters daily, The Associated Press reported.
Nikos Dendias hit out at Turkey’s actions in recent months in the Aegean Sea, saying Ankara must “abstain from its illegal gunboat diplomacy”. Dendias spoke during a visit to Greece’s northeastern border with Turkey, accompanied by European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
Earlier this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared the borders with Europe were open to migrants living in Turkey who wanted to head into the European Union. Although Turkey also shares a border with EU member Bulgaria, it was only on the Greek land border crossing that tens of thousands of migrants gathered, demanding to be allowed to cross.
Dendias described the action as “the exploitation, on the part of Turkey, of the hopes of tens of thousands of civilians for a better life ... misled through a disinformation campaign orchestrated by Turkish officials at the highest level.”
“It’s very clear that we are determined to protect the external borders of the European Union and to strongly support Greece’s sovereignty,” Borrell said.
Borrell said he and Dendias had discussed the deteriorating relations with Turkey and “about how we can stop the dynamics of escalation.”
The Greek minister accused Turkey of “continuously violating the sovereignty of Libya, Syria, Iraq and our EU partner, the Republic of Cyprus. It is violating almost daily Greece’s national airspace and territorial waters, including overflights of inhabited areas here in Evros and the Aegean Sea by armed warplanes.”
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