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Turkey-France: A new period? 5 décembre 2012

Posted by Acturca in France, Turkey / Turquie, Turkey-EU / Turquie-UE.
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Today’s Zaman (Turkey) Wednesday, December 5, 2012, p. 15

Beril Dedeoğlu

Galatasaray University hosted an important meeting last Monday. The reunion, called the « French-Turkish meetings » and co-organized by the university’s European Research and Documentation Center (CREDE) and the French think tank Institute of International and Strategic Studies (IRIS), has brought together many Turkish and French academics, columnists and politicians.

The first of these meetings took place last year, and to tell the truth, under a very negative atmosphere: Nicolas Sarkozy was still in charge then.

During last year’s meeting, both sides were too busy blaming each other for the degradation of the two countries’ relations. In fact, both sides ploughed the sands as everyone knew that under Sarkozy’s presidency, no real progress was possible.

This year’s meeting was much more efficient, convivial and constructive. The organizers had wanted to call people from all political sensitivities and that’s why not only the representatives of France’s governing Socialist Party but also of the main opposition Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) were present. Unfortunately, Turkey’s main opposition party decided not to participate and that’s why they couldn’t use this opportunity to express their views to their French counterparts.

The main goal of this French-Turkish meeting was of course to find ways to develop bilateral relations. To put it differently, the participants have tried to correct the consequences of Sarkozy’s harmful policies. Let’s first say that everyone agreed on something: There aren’t any direct problems between France and Turkey. The existing problems are all related to third-party issues, such as Turkish-EU relations, the Cyprus issue and the island’s relations with NATO and the Armenian genocide issue. In fact, the main problem is that the two countries have made different and sometimes contradictory strategic choices about these subjects.

Both sides agree that these problems exist, but they propose different ways to overcome them. What is encouraging is that everyone seemed impatient about putting these problems behind and moving forward.

The slogan of this new approach is « common success. » Naturally, in order to reach a common success, one needs to find a common subject to work on. In order to find this common subject, one needs a positive atmosphere. This positive atmosphere must be established quickly as a number of crucial elections are approaching: the EU Parliament’s elections, and presidential elections in Cyprus and Turkey, for example.

The participants have developed some ideas as to how to find ways to break the ice. For example, French President François Hollande may come for an official visit to Turkey and use this opportunity to announce that France will no longer veto the opening of several EU negotiation chapters. In this context, it would be a good idea to re-establish the French-Turkish Friendship Group in the Turkish Parliament. These efforts will not be sufficient to create a common success, but they will at least contribute to the positive atmosphere.

On which strategic domains can the two countries work together? Probably about Syria, along with energy and security issues in the east Mediterranean. There is no doubt that Turkey would like to cooperate with another power while dealing with these problems, rather than acting alone. A French-Turkish rapprochement would be very helpful for the entire region’s stability. The key question is: Why should Turkey choose France as its major partner, and vice-versa?

Maybe a lasting solution would be to have France usher Turkey into the EU, while Turkey ushers France into the Middle East. However, one first has to convince the public about this strategic cooperation. As columnists and academics, we are the ones everyone looks at when it comes to persuading.

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