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Presidents Macron and Erdogan: navigate or generate a European crisis?

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By Pierre Tran

Paris – France may be a mid-tier military power, but the head of state pursues an active foreign policy, seeking to be a bridge across murky waters around the world.

President Emmanuel Macron has strengthened political ties with Greece, paving the way for the eventual sale of Rafale fighter jets to the Greek Air Force, as part of Athens’ desire to rearm its forces.

But this diplomatic, military and commercial victory will have thrown more fuel on the heated relations between Macron and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

There is something very personal about the dispute between Macron and Erdogan.

The Turkish leader spoke clearly on September 12 when he told Macron to be careful: don’t mess with Turkey.

Erdogan issued the warning in a nationwide speech, marking the 40th anniversary of General Kenan Evren’s seizure of power in a military coup in 1980.

Erdogan has guided Turkey through deadly conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Syria and other points of tension around the Mediterranean.

France also plays an active role in these armed struggles, the countries bordering the Mediterranean being clearly in the Parisian backyard.

To make it clear that this was personal and not political, Erdogan called on Macron to consider that time was running out and his tenure as president was running out.

French voters go to the polls in 2022, while Erdogan was re-elected in 2018 and can remain in office for two five-year terms.

Macron was a surprise candidate in the May 2017 election and won on a reform ticket. Then came the coronavirus.

Erdogan was speaking in response to Macron calling on European partners to act firmly with the Erdogan administration, making it clear that this was not an attack on the Turkish people.

Macron was speaking before a meeting of the leaders of seven Mediterranean countries, held in Corsica, nicknamed in France the island of beauty.

France’s relations with Turkey have been difficult for some time.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the then president, called on Ankara to take responsibility for the massacre of Armenians in 1915, and campaigned for a French law making denial of the massacre illegal.

This bill was not in the statutes, but the message was clear to the Armenian community in France.

France has also refused Turkey’s membership of the European Union, a community of nations in difficulty but still an economic force to be reckoned with.

Turkey can also be a key member of NATO, occupying a strategic position with the Middle East, North Africa, and Western and Eastern Europe close at hand.

But according to Macrons, this alliance is in a state of brain death.

For Elyse’s office, a reflection of this lack of mental activity can be seen in NATO’s refusal to support French claims that a Turkish warship turned on its sighting radar on a French warship. during a NATO naval mission in the Mediterranean.

In Beirut, Macron was hailed as a force for political reform when he flew to the Lebanese capital following the deadly explosion last month.

This warm welcome on the streets was overseas, while French critics said Macron should stay at home and deal with the deadly spread of COVID 19.

At home, the pandemic has led to an increase in unemployment to 4.5 million unemployed, and Macron has unveiled a recovery plan of 100 billion.

At a time when Germany seeks an orderly transfer of political power, Macron can claim to be the European troublemaker in world affairs, and he has now focused on Turkey and the Turkish-Greek conflict.

Turkey is a regional force with which France must deal.

How to achieve this is difficult, given the bitter relationship between the two leaders.

Featured photo: NEW YORK, USA – SEPTEMBER 19, 2017: President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) shakes hands with French President Emmanuel Macron (right) during the 72nd session of the General Assembly of Nations United States in New York, United States, on September 19, 2017 (Photo by Kayhan Ozer / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)


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