France says Turkey’s ‘soothing declarations’ not good enough

File photo. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Foreign Minister of France, speaks next to Swiss Federal Councilor Ignazio Cassis, on 16 November 2020. [Peter Schnieider/EPA/EFE]

France said Sunday (22 November) it expects Turkey to de-escalate international tension with actions instead of words ahead of an EU decision on possible further sanctions against Ankara.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told French media that it would be “easy” for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to defuse standoffs in the eastern Mediterranean, in Libya and in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“The soothing declarations by Erdoğan that we’ve seen over the past two or three days are not enough, we need acts,” he said.

Le Drian’s comments come a day after Erdoğan reached out to the European Union, while warning the bloc not to be manipulated during escalating tensions over the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkish deployment of a ship to search for gas in waters claimed by Greece has triggered a fierce war of words with EU member states, which early this month extended sanctions against Ankara for another year.

“We have many disagreements,” Le Drian said, calling Turkey’s policies “expansionist” as well as “aggressive” towards two EU members, Greece and Cyprus.

Le Drian said said Turkey had been sending “Syrian mercenaries” to Nagorno-Karabakh, where warring parties Armenia and Azerbaijan this month signed a Russian-brokered peace accord.

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French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday (2 October) demanded that Turkey explain what he said was the arrival of jihadist fighters in Azerbaijan — and urged NATO to face up to its ally’s actions.

At the December summit, the EU will “verify the commitments” made by Ankara concerning the various trouble spots, Le Drian said.

Last October EU leaders adopted a carrot-and-stick approach vis-a-vis Ankara, postponing the decision on possible sanctions for the December summit.

Erdoğan said on Saturday he expected “the EU to keep its promises, not to discriminate against us or at least not to become a tool to open enmities targeting our country” in a video address to his ruling party congress.

He also said that Turkey sees itself as an inseperable part of Europe.

At one point Turkey had pursued a track towards EU membership, but it encountered opposition from several EU members and has since pulled back under Erdoğan’s leadership.

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