French President Emmanuel Macron sent a "very good" letter to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan with a proposal to normalize relations between the two countries, said the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu the other day. “Two days ago, we received a very good and positive letter from Macron, which contains his desire to develop relations, to meet with our president. He even wrote a greeting in Turkish by hand: "Dear Recep," Turkish newspaper “Sabah” quotes Mevlut Cavusoglu.

According to the head of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacted positively to the letter from Emmanuel Macron. “Our president said: 'We will meet with pleasure.' The talk is primarily about videoconferencing and telephone conversations,” the minister explained.

Earlier, he said that Ankara is ready to normalize relations with France, despite serious differences on some issues, due to which there was tangible tension between the countries. This event surprised many. The unusualness of the situation is that over the past year, the number of problems that arose between Erdogan and his French counterpart began to increase as a snowball.

Relations between them aggravated after Macron accused Turkey of collusion with IS (Islamic State) in December 2019 at the summit of leaders of the NATO member states in London. Later, he declared NATO's "brain death", expressing his outrage at Turkey's actions in Syria. In the future, he even called on to exclude Turkey from the alliance because of its decision to purchase Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems.

In addition, Ankara is extremely irritated that Paris is supporting the DUP/PSDF (Democratic Union Party / People's Self-Defense Forces - the militant wing of the DUP), which is the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (banned as a terrorist organization in Turkey). Receiving the leaders of the PSDF in Paris, Macron showed solidarity with them. Moreover, France's support is not only political, financial. Moreover, on March 30, 2018, Macron decided to send his special forces to the city of Münbich (Syria) in order to strengthen the positions of the military formations of this party.

In the future, problems between Turkey and France arose in the Mediterranean, in Libya, and there were contradictions in connection with the war in Karabakh. In addition to this, a scandal erupted when the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published a cartoon of the President of Turkey.

After in a suburb of Paris a religious fanatic murdered a 47-year-old teacher Samuel Pati, who showed his students the Prophet Muhammad cartoons, Macron issued a statement that took public insults to the extreme. The French leader said that Islam is in a state of crisis; he called the teacher "a quiet hero" and "the embodiment of the republic." In response, Erdogan expressed the hope that the French "will soon get rid of" Macron, who is "a burden for France, which is going through dangerous times."

After the French president announced the need to build "enlightened Islam", Erdogan accused his colleague of Islamophobia, called him "sick" and advised him to "examine his mental state."

Paris immediately recalled its ambassador from Ankara for consultations, and Erdogan accused Macron of organizing a "hate campaign" against Islam. The Turkish president urged citizens of his country to refuse to buy French goods.

In a word, relations between Ankara and Paris have entered a period of severe political crisis. At the same time, the existing contradictions are quite serious in nature, and the main ones are perhaps the differences over the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya.

So, Turkey claims to the small island of Kastelorizo ​​(Turkish Meis, Greek Meisti - one of the islands of the Dodecanese archipelago, located in the Eastern Mediterranean, 2 kilometers from the coast of Turkey, 110 kilometers east of the Greek island of Rhodes), which Greece considers its and claims that this section of the sea is its exclusive economic zone.

Since 1945, this island, like the rest of the islands of the archipelago, was under British protectorate. But according to the Paris agreements of 1947, taking into account the desire of the islanders to "enosis" (reunification with Greece), as well as the contribution of Greece to the allied victory and sacrifices suffered by the Greek people, the Dodecanese, including Meisti, was reunited with Greece.

On 10 August 2020, the Turkish Naval Forces began maneuvers near Kastelorizo. At the same time, the Turkish exploration vessel "Oruc Reis" conducted exploration of oil and gas fields in the sea zone, which Athens considers their territory. Thus, allegedly grossly violated the sovereignty of Greece, which considers this part of the sea its exclusive economic zone.

Naturally, Greece could not help but answer. Greece too, has brought her naval and air forces on alert. The military were recalled from their vacations and the Greek government (even) issued an ultimatum - according to which Turkey had to put an end to provocations by 23:00. Turkey ignored all this and continued the research begun the day before.

France decided to support Greece, which, as support, transferred to Cyprus two Rafal fighters and a Fayette-class frigate, which had previously arrived in the region for maneuvers.

Macron assured Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis that the French military would closely monitor the situation in the region. Already on Thursday morning, French ships took part in joint exercises with the Greek fleet near the island of Crete.

Cyprus, Egypt and Israel, which are participants in the project for the supply of hydrocarbons from offshore fields to Europe, also supported Greece in the conflict with Turkey over the shelf.

The prologue to these events in the Eastern Mediterranean was another event that happened a few days earlier. On August 6, 2020, Greece and Egypt signed an agreement on the demarcation of maritime boundaries, dividing the Eastern Mediterranean among themselves. By this time (January 2, 2020), an intergovernmental agreement had already been signed between Greece, Cyprus and Israel on the EastMed (Eastern Mediterranean pipeline) offshore gas pipeline project for transporting natural gas from gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean to Europe. ... The project provides for the construction of a pipeline by 2025 through which gas from these fields will go from Greece to Europe.

Everything would be, as they say, "decorous and noble", but on November 27, 2019, the governments of Turkey and Libya (GNA - the internationally recognized Government of National Accord, headed by Faiz Saraj - ed.) have already signed two memorandums of understanding: one on military cooperation, and the other on the delimitation of maritime jurisdiction. By signing these documents, Ankara tried to create a legal basis for carrying out geological exploration and then drilling works in the waters of the Eastern Mediterranean, in particular in the waters of the TRNC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus)). Judging by the fact that on October 1, 2020, UN (United Nations) registered the "Agreement on the delimitation of maritime jurisdiction between Turkey and Libya" (according to the registration certificate, the agreement "was registered with the UN Secretariat in accordance with Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations"), it succeeded.

Thus, Greece and Egypt have declared their rights to the same waters as Turkey and Libya. It is understood, that Ankara could not leave these actions unanswered. In fact, the actions taken by it on August 10 were a demarche against any agreements that the Mediterranean countries conclude in the waters that Turkey considers its exclusive economic zone.

It is clear that EastMed is seriously breaking the gas strategy of Turkey, which sees itself as a southern European gas hub; after South Stream was buried, (South Stream is a transnational gas pipeline project for diversifying natural gas supplies to Europe. It involved pumping gas through the Black Sea seas (from Russia to Bulgaria) and the countries of Southern and Central Europe) and replaced in 2016 by the new project of the Türk Akını gas pipeline (“Turkish Stream”).

Turkey has concentrated almost all gas pipelines that go to Europe. It is clear that Turkey is not interested in the implementation of such a serious project as EastMed, and therefore, it is not surprising that it opposes its implementation.

How does Turkey manage to confront alone France, Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and Israel? In all likelihood, the US course taken under President Donald Trump to reduce its participation in settling external conflicts, and the EU's inability to make independent decisions, is working in Ankara's favor. However, the matrix of international relations has also changed. This manifested itself in the weakening of the influence of traditional centers of power and the emergence of serious regional players capable of resolving conflicts themselves, without involving the “world policemen”.

Most importantly, despite numerous disagreements, Turkey remains one of the main US allies in the Middle East. Washington's reluctance to lose this partnership is evidenced by the withdrawal of US military forces from northern Syria in October 2019, which effectively gave the green light to launch Operation Barış Pinarı (Peace Source) against the DUP/PSDF. The US also lifted sanctions imposed on Turkey in response to its military operation in Syria, because the role of Turkey is irreplaceable for the United States. Therefore, there was still no particularly sharp movement towards Turkey from the West.

At the same time (paradoxically!), operating in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey relied on the power of the Russian-Chinese alliance formed in recent decades, which is trying with all its might to squeeze American influence from the Eurasian continent and, if possible, from Africa.

Moreover, not only Turkey does not like EastMed ... Russia, which is being thrown out of the European gas market, is also not interested in it. As you know, due to the US threats to impose sanctions, almost all European companies cooperating with Gazprom in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline (Nord Stream 2) is a gas pipeline under construction from Russia to Germany across the Baltic Sea. Nord Stream), have suspended pipe-laying and other activities. In particular, the Norwegian company Det Norske Veritas (DNV GL) confirms the termination of all certification activities for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. In November 2020, it already stopped providing services to the vessels serving the project. In addition, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, energy companies are going through hard times, and simple construction increases its cost for Gazprom and foreign partners. This forces each of the project participants to pull in their direction - no one wants to incur additional costs and, as a result, the project cannot budge. Due to these circumstances, Russia, in principle, is not opposed to being a partner of Turkey in the South.

In addition, Russia is interested in Turkey's maximum distance from NATO. The conflict, in which the members of the North Atlantic Alliance (Turkey, Greece and France - Ed.) were participants, did not contribute to the strengthening of NATO, but rather, caused a considerable split in the ranks of the alliance. Therefore, Moscow and Beijing fully understands Turkey's actions in the Eastern Mediterranean.

However, let us come back to the unexpected change in President Macron's rhetoric. Until recent days, we have witnessed an increasingly critical attitude of the Elysee Palace to the policy of Aksaray in North Africa. This was due to the interests that France historically had in Libya, and above all in the energy sector. French oil companies were probably among those hoping for lucrative oil contracts in Libya. Among them is “Total”, the fourth largest oil and Gas Company in the world, which operates in Libya. Macron, on the other hand, actively supported the so-called LNA (Libyan National Army) led by the rebel general Khalifa Haftar, because the access of “Total” to oil and gas fields in southern Libya depended on him.

Paris also has geostrategic interests in North Africa. The southern Libyan border is of great importance to France, because the former colonies of Chad and Niger are located along it. In addition, Libya is the main center of the migration route to the Western Mediterranean. France fears that if Turkey gains influence in Libya, it will also increase the pressure on all of Europe from migration flows.

All this made conflict between Turkey and France inevitable, and the last serious incident between them occurred on June 10, 2020 off the coast of Libya, when the French frigate “Courbet” (Lafayette-class frigate) approached a convoy of three Turkish warships in the Mediterranean and one civilian under the Tanzanian flag. “Courbet”, which was involved in NATO's operation Sea Guardian, which aims, among other things, to prevent the smuggling of weapons, wanted to inspect the cargo of a civilian ship. In response, the Turkish frigate three times took the “Courbet” aim with gun aiming radar (which usually precedes the attack). This is the French version of what happened.

Ankara refutes it, claiming that the French frigate "carried out dangerous maneuvers", and the Turkish ship used its radar system to monitor it. At the same time, Turkish sailors claim that no one got in touch with their vessel.

In the end, the French Ministry of Defense suggested that the leadership of the North Atlantic Alliance reconsider its attitude towards Turkey and, possibly, deprive it of NATO membership.

The conflict was prevented thanks to the intervention of Brussels (NATO). Since then, France has accused Turkey of illegally supplying arms to Libya, despite the embargo. Ankara denied these accusations and remind of Paris' support for the putschist Haftar, which contradicts the position of the international community.

In general, Paris has made many efforts to create a negative image of Turkey. The European media wrote that Erdogan was increasingly behaving as an adversary, not an "ally of the West." By the way, the Americans also played along with this game. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, "Turkey opposes the principles and actions of NATO, undermines the unity of this bloc and is taking provocative actions in the Eastern Mediterranean, Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh."

However, as we can see, Paris lost the opposition to Ankara. In fact, Macron's letter was a recognition of this. This event, which took place against the background of active work in the Elysee Palace on the draft sanctions against Turkey, the introduction of which is scheduled for March 30, surprised many.

Now, the task of French President Emmanuel Macron is to present Paris not as an enemy of Islam, but as a party capable of reaching agreements on some even complex, but specific issues. These motives prompted Macron to prepare a letter to Erdogan with an offer to meet.

It would be a mistake to believe that Macron backed down because he was frightened by the image of an "enemy of Islam" and a boycott of French goods. The main motivation for preparing a letter to Erdogan with a proposal for a meeting was the desire in no way to help strengthen the Turkish-Russian alliance. After France, which is the co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, was left out of the discussion and decision-making on Karabakh, Paris realized that it was impossible to solve any single problem having a conflict with Ankara.

This understanding is especially important against the background of the fact that on December 29, Ankara and London signed a trade agreement worth 20.5 billion euros. This document will help Turkey neutralize the negative impact of possible EU sanctions. It is no coincidence that President Erdogan called it “the most important agreement” since Turkey's 1995 trade agreement with the European Union.

Moreover, Paris will have to negotiate with Ankara on Syria and Libya, and for this, it is better to start building bridges right now.



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