France says Turkey needs to turn words into action to repair ties

France has welcomed pledges by the Turkish government to mend relations between the two countries, but says it needs to see action before real progress can be achieved.

The presidents of the two countries spoke on Tuesday as part of efforts to normalise relations, marred by differences over Syria, the eastern Mediterranean, Libya and France’s Muslim minority.

“There aren’t any insults and the language is more reassuring,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told parliament this week, according to Reuters.

“Actions are needed and we will be able to position ourselves when those actions are carried out. For now, it’s just verbal action,” he said.  

France has backed Greece in a dispute with Turkey over waters in the eastern Mediterranean and has clashed with the NATO member over a conflict in Libya and a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan late last year over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. France’s position on Turkey is seen by analysts as key to the latter’s efforts to repair fraught ties with the European Union.

“It’s fragile, because the list of disagreements is very long, but we want a healthy relationship with Turkey,” Le Drian said.

A call between French President Emmanuel Macron and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, their first since September, contained a “frank” exchange of views, a foreign ministry source told Reuters.  

There were positive steps, the source said, including on cooperation in counter terrorism and the possible lifting of a work permit freeze on French teachers employed at Istanbul’s French-speaking university of Galatasaray.