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Recep Tayyip Erdogan proposes a regional conference on the Eastern Mediterranean conflict



           


MEDITERRANEAN. After having shown their strong arms, having let off steam in violent diatribes bordering on insult between heads of state, multiplied episodes of intimidation and strong acts (the last being the sanctions pronounced by the European Council against a Turkish shipping company), the time seems to be at the point of appeasement between Turkey and the European countries in the conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Ankara's relations had become strained, particularly with Greece, Cyprus and France, since August 2020. Even the organization of military maneuvers by Athens and Nicosia and a military deployment from Paris had led to fears of a point of no return. It all began with the incursion into disputed waters between Greece and Cyprus (in what Athens considers its Exclusive Economic Zone - EEZ) of a Turkish exploration vessel interested in the high potential of gas deposits. While it has reached from its port, two others are continuing their investigations. In spite of the demand of the various European authorities that Turkey immediately cease these illegal drilling activities.
In a resolution voted on September 17, 2020, MEPs asked the 27 EU heads of state to "stand ready to put in place new sectoral and targeted restrictive measures that would not have a negative impact on the Turkish population or refugees residing in the country". They were relaying the message of the final declaration of the MED7 Summit (Cyprus, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal) of 10 September 2020 in Porticcio (near Ajaccio). And this, just a few days before an extraordinary European Council on 24 and 25 September 2020 in Brussels with this conflict as its theme.
The European Parliament stated in its resolution: "de-escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean is in our mutual interest". Of which it is noted.

A Turkish-Greek meeting "soon" in Istanbul

Recep Tayyip Erdogan was open to dialogue during his speech at the UN (photo: UN/Eskinder Debebe).
Recep Tayyip Erdogan was open to dialogue during his speech at the UN (photo: UN/Eskinder Debebe).
Today, the voltage is therefore dropping a notch, as proven by the statements of the last 24 hours. And what could be better than a tribune at the UN, on the occasion of the institution's 75th anniversary, to begin these acts of contrition. On Tuesday, September 22, 2020, in a message sent to the United Nations, Recep Tayyip Erdogan proposed the holding of a regional conference to settle territorial disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean, which has been aggravating relations between Ankara and the European Union for months.

At the same time, the Turkish president announced, during a meeting with Angela Merkel - with the German chancellor posing as mediator - that his country and Greece were "ready to begin exploratory talks" (sic) on their differences. He said he was preparing to meet Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Greek prime minister. An information confirmed by the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs stating that the dialogue would take place "soon" and even specifying the place: Istanbul. It would be the first palaver since 2016 between the two countries, in delicacy on many subjects. The high point of modern discord dates back to the de facto partition of Cyprus in the summer of 1974, after the Turkish intervention in response to an attempted coup d'état on the island orchestrated by the dictatorship of the colonels of Athens, which marked the end of this regime.

Talks between the Turkish and French presidents
Finally, Emmanuel Macron and Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone on Tuesday evening, September 22, 2020, about these tensions in the Western Mediterranean. The information from the Elysée Palace was relayed by the Communication Office of the Turkish Presidency. The latter said in a statement that the French President was at the initiative of this conversation on "Turkish-French relations, Turkey-EU relations and regional developments, including the Eastern Mediterranean.

During this call, the Turkish president reaffirmed that the situation was caused by the disregard for the rights of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots in the region. He admitted that he did not understand France's support for the "maximalist demands and the steps taken by Greece and the Greek Cypriot sector" which he accused of being at the origin of the escalation. He also reiterated that he did not covet other people's land but would continue to defend his own rights. "As always, we are in favor of dialogue and cooperation for the resolution of issues. To reduce tension, we must seize opportunities for diplomacy and implement sustainable negotiation processes. We want to discuss and resolve all issues at the table," he told his interlocutor. Recep Tayyip Erdogan even suggested the establishment of a permanent mechanism of consultation and Turkish-French communication.

"The indispensable construction of a Pax Mediterranea"

For his part, Emmanuel Macron, according to the Elysée, called on his counterpart to commit himself "without ambiguity in the construction of a new area of peace and cooperation in the Mediterranean. In his video speech, Tuesday, September 22, 2020 at the United Nations, the French president insisted on the need in the Eastern Mediterranean to "re-engage in an effective and clear dialogue to avoid a new space of confrontation and questioning of international law". Emmanuel Macron also stressed, "we respect Turkey, we are ready for dialogue with it, but we will wait for it to respect European sovereignty, international law and clarify its actions in Libya and Syria. Insults are inoperative. And all these words and deeds have no place in responsible relations between states".
Evoking the "appeal to responsibility that Europe wanted to launch to him", he continued by screens interposed on the New York platform: "we Europeans are ready for dialogue, for the indispensable construction of a Pax Mediterranea, but not at the price of intimidation, not at the price of the logic of the strongest, in the respect of international law, cooperation and respect between allies. These principles are non-negotiable".

A firm speech, but nevertheless more open than his previous statements. On his way to the MED7 Summit, he did not hesitate to drop a lapidary: "It is clear that Turkey is no longer a partner in this region. Echoing this, Recep Tayyip Erdogan's reply had qualified Emmanuel Macron as "alleged Napoleon in the Mediterranean campaign. "

After the invectives, diplomacy seems to be back on track. The holding of a European Council meeting on 24 and 25 September 2020 in Brussels on the subject of Turkey's attitude in the Eastern Mediterranean, with the study of sanctions against Ankara on the menu, should not be unrelated to this return to more friendly talks between heads of state.


Frédéric Dubessy


Wednesday, September 23rd 2020



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