French President Emmanuel Macron said Turkey was “no longer a partner” in the Mediterranean but expressed a desire for renewed dialogue with Ankara.
But, reflecting a shift in his rhetoric in recent weeks, Macron offered something of an olive branch — after months of escalating tensions, both verbal and military, that included a standoff between a French frigate and Turkish ships in June.
“It is clear that today Turkey is no longer a partner in the region,” Macron said at a press conference in Ajaccio, Corsica, ahead of a summit of Southern European countries.
Macron said his “deep wish is to reengage in a fruitful dialogue with Turkey” and to reach what he termed “a Pax Mediterranea” built on sharing energy resources and cultural and academic exchanges.
Three main topics were on the agenda at Thursday’s meeting of seven countries, known as the Med7: the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya and migration.
Macron said he wanted the Med7 countries “to agree on strong common positions on our red lines.”
Turkey plays a central role in all three but EU members still don’t fully agree on how best to respond. Nevertheless, over recent months, agreement appears to have grown within the EU and also NATO on a need to stop Turkish gas drilling and exploring in waters also claimed by Greece and Cyprus.
“Europe must have a more united and a clearer voice,” Macron said ahead of the meeting, which also involves leaders from Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain.
He said he wanted the seven countries “to agree on strong common positions on our red lines” ahead of a European Council summit that will discuss the same issues on September 24 and 25.
Those red lines, Macron said, are “simple, respecting the sovereignty of every European member state, respecting international law, condemning unilateral actions.”
But EU consensus on how to enforce those red lines remains elusive.
Only a handful of member countries have contributed to the European maritime mission to police an arms embargo on Libya, IRINI. Only three frigates are currently a part of it instead of the six initially planned.
There still isn’t a systematic process among EU member countries to share out refugees who arrive on Europe’s shores. In some cases, an ad-hoc group of countries steps in to take in new arrivals.
French officials acknowledge that the seven countries meeting in Corsica have differing priorities in the Mediterranean. Spain and Portugal are more immediately concerned with migrant arrivals from Morocco. Italy too has a more nuanced position, attempting to balance support for Greek and Cypriot sovereignty with its position on Libya, where is less at odds with Turkey than that of other EU members.
Macron said resuming talks with Ankara should be done in “a realistic way” that makes clear what the EU is offering and what it expects of Turkey “with preconditions on which we will be uncompromising.”
Those preconditions are, however, a sticking point from the Turkish perspective. Greece and Cyprus want Ankara to withdraw its warships and exploration vessels before talks can resume.
“We are ready for dialogue without any preconditions,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told a European Parliament committee on Thursday. But, he said, if Athens insisted on preconditions, then Ankara would insist on its own.