France calls on Turkey to show signals of de-escalation
Turkey – Reply by M. Clément Beaune, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to a question in the National Assembly
Paris, 13 April 2021
You ask us an important question about France’s position on Turkey. I want to be very clear: it’s a position of firmness, on which we’ve gradually got Europe to shift.
It was France and the French President who, at the beginning of 2020, condemned the pressure exerted on Greece at the border, at our [EU] border – exerted and organized by President Erdoğan.
It was the French President who took the initiative last summer, with three of our European partners, of organizing a naval exercise in the eastern Mediterranean, to demonstrate our presence and our firmness.
As you know, European negotiations began on the basis of a position, a consensus, which was not one of firmness initially, last autumn, and we led Europe towards this line of clear-sightedness, unity and firmness in relation to Turkey at the European Council of December 2020, giving Ankara an extremely clear alternative: we’re not seeking escalation, but we’re defending our interests.
It’s up to Turkey to tell us if it’s ready to signal that things will calm down and de-escalate. You mentioned a number of issues and theatres in which this influence is apparent: the eastern Mediterranean, Libya, Syria and, as we’ve seen, in other operations around the Caucasus in recent weeks; choose de-escalation and clearly signal that things will calm down, or choose to continue this aggressive posture and Europe will be ready to respond. We’ve prepared a number of measures, including sanctions, which can be activated if needed.
Since the European Council met, and particularly under this pressure, it must be said that there have also been a few positive signs from Turkey: the withdrawal of ships from Greek and Cypriot territorial waters, the resumption of talks with Athens for the first time in five years and discussions on Cyprus in a few days’ time.
Let’s take these signs as positive ones and let’s also see what has got worse, because we must be clear-sighted; you mentioned the withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, which we condemned, you mentioned the political pressure exerted on an opposition party. These are obviously decisions and behaviours which are a step in the wrong direction.
It’s why we’ve kept up this pressure and the President asked us to reassess the situation at Council on 15 June./.