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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Erdogan, Macron meet in Paris: what to expect?

The Turkish President has arrived in Paris ahead of talks of the two countries' bilateral relations

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) is welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron (L) upon his arrival at the Elysee Palace for a meeting in Paris, France, 05 January 2018. Erdogan is in Paris for a one-day visit for bilateral talks.  EPA/ETIENNE LAURENT
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) is welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron (L) upon his arrival at the Elysee Palace for a meeting in Paris, France, 05 January 2018. Erdogan is in Paris for a one-day visit for bilateral talks. EPA/ETIENNE LAURENT

Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan has arrived in Paris for his first meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron since the failed Turkish coup of July 2016.

The visit serves as an effort to improve Franco-Turkish relations, following a war of words in 2017.

On the agenda, are the ongoing conflict in Syria, trade between the two countries and bilateral relations, as well as Erdogan’s assault on press freedom in Turkey.

Last August, Macron quipped in an interview that his job was not “cool”, as he had to speak with Erdogan regularly. Though more recently he has appeared the EU leader most willing to engage with Turkey.

In November, he insisted that the EU should maintain dialogue with both Russia and Turkey, he even went as far as referring to Turkey as “an essential partner” when it comes to dealing with conflicts such as Syria, wherein France is seeking to play a greater role.

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However, the Turkish premier told French TV station LCI on Thursday, that he had got off to a "very good start" with Macron.

One likely issue of contention is that of press freedom and Erdogan’s purges in the wake of the coup; several French journalists have been imprisoned in Turkey over the past year. In a New Year’s address Macron vowed to raise the "situation of imprisoned journalists, prevented from doing their job" in his meeting with Erdogan.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been more vocal in her criticism of the purges, an issue that has strained Turkey’s historical ties with Germany.

The talks are expected to focus on Turkey-EU bilateral relations, but the trip is as much an effort to shore up Erdogan domestically and regionally, as Magdalena Kirchner, a research fellow at RAND Europe notes “he’s going to meet a delegation of the Islamic Council of France, which underlines his empowered positioning as a leader of the Muslim world since the recent Jerusalem crisis”.

“It’s also about normalising Turkey’s emergency rule”, says Kirchner. Ankara’s emergency rule remains in place some 18 months after the attempted coup, and France’s, which was introduced following the 2015 terror attack remained in place until October. “In the past, Erdogan and other officials repeatedly pointed to France to refute criticism of Turkey’s ongoing state of emergency as Western double-standards”, notes Kirchner.

However, the invitation has been sharply criticised by some, in particular the French left – the Socialist mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, announced she was "concerned" about the state of "human rights and local democracy in Turkey".

Whilst Amnesty International, whose Turkey head Taner Kilic is currently in jail said, said Macron should "strongly remind [Erdogan] that human rights defenders are not terrorists."

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