Despite period of tension, Turkey and France share many common interests – Çavuşoğlu

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu emphasized the common interests between Turkey and France, despite the admitted tensions that have existed between the countries in recent years, in an editorial published in the French journal l’Opinion on Sunday.

Çavuşoğlu began his piece by pointing out that both countries “have just gone through a period of tension”, which he described as “unusual for two allied countries.” 

However, he went on to add that the contact established between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron “gives us the opportunity to consolidate our ties.”

Çavuşoğlu’s two-day visit to France began on Sunday. The visit on the invitation of his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian saw discussion on “bilateral relations between Turkey and France.” 

In his piece, the Turkish foreign minister ran through the regional issues of mutual interest to both countries, highlighting what he called “a growing number of convergences and common interests.” 

Addressing war-torn Syria, Çavuşoğlu said France and Turkey “essentially share the same priorities” on various issues, such as the delivery of humanitarian aid, the political process to end the conflict there and preserve the country’s territorial integrity. He said that Turkey recently had “sincere and fruitful discussions” with France on the subject. 

On the other hand, the disagreements revolve around France’s collaboration with the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) against the Islamic State (ISIS) group. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist group. Therefore, they can only overcome their disagreement on this issue when such cooperation ceases, Çavuşoğlu said, alleging that the “real goal” of the YPG is not fighting ISIS but dividing Syria and creating a terrorist entity on the border of Europe and NATO. 

Moving on to Libya, Çavuşoğlu listed the issues of convergence with France. For one, both countries want to see the country stabilized and politically unified through a lasting ceasefire. They both also want to combat terrorism there and prevent waves of refugees and migrants from fleeing that country to Europe. 

We are open to dialogue to find matters of common interest in Libya, whose stability affects the entire region,” he wrote. 

On tensions with Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean, Çavuşoğlu says their disputes are “today subject of a calm dialogue within the framework of various mechanisms with Athens.” 

He went on to claim that Turkey does not and never has had expansionist ambitions in these areas. 

Regarding the Cyprus question, he said that Turkey would support both the Turkish and Greek Cypriots “if they agree on the objectives of the negotiations.” 

We believe, in view of the failures of previous initiatives, that efforts based on the principles of sovereign equality and equal international status are the only ones that stand a chance of reaching a solution,” he wrote. 

In the Caucasus, Turkey and France can establish a lasting peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia. In the Balkans, he stressed that Turkey is not an adversary but rather “plays a complementary role to European and transatlantic policies for the stability and prosperity of the region.” 

Regarding Turkey’s contentious purchase of Russian S-400 air defence missile systems, Çavuşoğlu reiterated Ankara’s stance that they pose no threat to NATO security. Also, Turkey “is determined to consider the S-400 issue on a realistic basis and through constructive dialogue.” 

On the general issue of terrorism, Çavuşoğlu said that France “must know that it can count on Turkey, which is its second biggest ally within the Atlantic Alliance.” 

On Turkish relations with the European Union, he expressed Turkey’s hope “that France can once again become the driving force behind rapprochement with Turkey by contributing to advances that benefit both the Union and our bilateral relations.” 

He concluded by reemphasizing that Turkey and France are and will remain allies and that they “must ensure that no misunderstanding comes to disturb this relationship of friendship to which we are sincerely attached.”