Turkey returning to Mediterranean with imperial fantasy, Macron says

One of the reasons for the current crisis in the Mediterranean is Turkey’s return to the region as an imperial power fantasising about its history, French President Emmanuel Macron said in a video message.

“We are witnessing a return of imperial, regional powers with the fantasy of their history. I am thinking, primarily, of Turkey,” Karar reported on Thursday, citing Macron in a speech originally made on Aug. 29 for the Lugano Forum on the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

Macron lamented the Mediterranean “migratory, security and environmental crises”, calling for more cooperation between the European Union and its southern neighbours in “our Mediterranean, our Middle East”.

Turkey, Greece and Cyprus are engaged in an escalated dispute over rights to territorial waters and natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean since plans emerged for a natural gas pipeline to transport Israeli gas to Europe over Cyprus and Greece. In response to having been excluded from the project, Turkey has repeatedly sent out vessels to explore hydrocarbons in internationally recognised Cypriot and Greek territorial waters in 2019.

France has sent warplanes to Cyprus and joined military exercises last week with Italy, Greece and Cyprus in the disputed region. Macron has repeatedly called for EU sanctions against Turkey, accusing the county of attacking the sovereignty of EU member states.

The U.S. and NATO presence in the region has “disappeared over time, or in any case, largely been withdrawn”, the French president said. 

Russia and Turkey have re-emerged as large regional powers with their own agendas in Syria and Libya, in “a situation such as one of endless warfare”. he said. “We see terrorist movements prosper, although the international coalition in Syria has made it possible to provide an effective, though incomplete, first response.”

Syria and Libya have “failed to replace either solutions to an imperial sovereignty they contested, or to the fight against terrorism with inclusive solutions”, Macron said. The whole Middle East as a region has been in instability over attempts to retrieve “forms of national sovereignty that are inclusive, which in essence had been in the region for a hundred years what we had been collectively contributed to try and achieve”, he said.

The European Union will have “failed catastrophically” if ethnic or religious rules emerge again in the Middle East, Macron said. “I believe that the Mediterranean cannot turn into a battleground where superpowers clash with each other.”

Egypt has a strong government, contributing to regional stability, but is distrustful of the Turkish government to a certain degree, partially over the Libyan conflict, according to Macron.

A week after making his statements at the Lugano Forum, Macron made a surprise visit to Iraq on Wednesday where he said Turkey had been “increasingly interfering with Iraq’s sovereignty through repeated attacks”.