Paris does not hide its envy towards Ankara’s active policy in the region, which forces everyone to pay attention to them. But the danger for Turkey is that the policy of France could lead to a review of state borders in the Greater Middle East, and the Kurds could become another puzzle in a new diplomatic game.

Ankara had high hopes of being invited to the Athens Forum, to which Cyprus, France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates were invited. Moreover, Ankara itself had earlier called for an international conference to find a way out of the crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean.

At first everything was fine. On January 25, after a break of almost five years, the so-called preliminary contacts between Greece and Turkey resumed. The real content of the talks has not been revealed officially, though the Greek side claims that it is only discussing the demarcation of sea zones. French President Emanuel Macron has sent a letter to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urging him to maintain a “constructive dialogue”. In addition, informal contacts on the Cyprus issue are planned in March at the initiative of the UN. And suddenly it fails.

They decided to leave Turkey out, although the preconditions for coordinating efforts of resolving problems seemed to be developing. Instead, they accepted “to condemn Turkey’s illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean, which undermine peace and security in the region” thesis.  According to some Turkish sources, Washington intervened in the events, “trying to prevent Ankara from clinging to the EU in the new Turkish foreign policy exercises, blocking the positive agenda that Brussels is trying to create with Turkey.”

Therefore, the meeting in Athens was organized earlier to start cooperation with the new US administration. The Turkish Daily Sabah writes that it is no coincidence that Ankara accuses Greece and France, as well as some countries in the Persian Gulf, of “creating an alliance against Turkey.” If so, who can play a major role in it? It is unlikely that this is Greece, which does not have the necessary resources to pursue a broad geopolitical regional policy. It is clear that According to Le Figaro, France is at the front line, “ready to completely save the honor of Europe, although until recently it had no strategic ambitions in the Middle East, it was pushed out of American interests.” Only recently, when the weakening of US influence in this region of the world became apparent to everyone, people in Paris began to remember the rich history of the French presence in the region. Napoleon Bonaparte’s Egyptian campaign (1798 – 1801), the colonial rivalry in the 19th century, its own mandate in the 1920s and 1930s.

After the Suez Crisis of 1956, Paris had to sacrifice its most serious ambitions for the Middle East states, redefining the scope of communication with them. According to experts, this search continues today, when the influence of French diplomacy is being tested through various events, centered on the Middle East. But in reality, it did not seek to “go far”, but sought to establish itself as an informal leader in the southern part of the European Union, considering itself a bridge between Europe and the Middle East. At the moment, France is not playing as the main European partner of the Middle East, there are no calls from it on the projects uniting “Euro-Mediterranean-Middle East”. Although Paris seeks to maintain its presence in countries where it still has the potential to act independently, such as Libya, Lebanon, Algeria, West Africa, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. However, the French force is not enough to be a real force, for example, to resolve the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, in Syria, where it has limited capabilities, as in the “Iranian dossier”.

The fact is that Paris has no ally in the Middle East other than the United States. It fails to build an independent policy with Turkey and France does not hide its historical envy for Ankara’s active policy in the region, which attracts everyone’s attention. The danger for Turkey is that French potential policy could create a problem of reviewing state borders in the Greater Middle East, and the Kurds will become another puzzle in a new diplomatic game. It is no coincidence that Turkish political circles regularly refer to the treaties on the partition of the Ottoman Empire 100 years ago. Numerous bloody clashes in its former territory are forcing many experts to return to historical sources, looking for reasons to turn the region into a “barrel of dust” today. Hence many predictions appear about the collapse of Syria, Lebanon, Libya and even Turkey. According to one French historian, Britain and France are responsible for what happened in the region, because “we built the Middle East and we will destroy it.”

Paris yet prefers to act within the framework of the initiatives taken by the European community for fear of contradicting the interests of the United States. However, France’s foreign policy in the Middle East is changing and it is quite significant. It is embedded in a new geopolitical reality that is taking shape in the Middle East in the context of the emergence of a “new world order” led by Joe Biden. So, Turkey also has to deal with complex, even historical, foreign policy issues.

2021 February 14

Stanislav Tarasov

Leave a Reply