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Mediterranean Diplomacy

France to host Mediterranean leaders amid regional tension with Turkey

French President Emmanuel Macron at a press conference in Beirut, 1 September 2020.
French President Emmanuel Macron at a press conference in Beirut, 1 September 2020. Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool via AP

French President Emmanuel Macron will host leaders from six Mediterranean states on Thursday for a summit set to be dominated by growing tensions over Turkey’s oil and gas ambitions in the east of the sea.

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French President Emmanuel Macron will host the leaders of Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain, Greece and Cyprus for a EuroMed 7 meeting in Ajaccio, Corsica on Thursday. Turkey is not a member of the union which was created in 2016.

Before the summit, Macron will hold talks with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

France has strongly backed Greece and Cyprus in a growing standoff with Turkey over natural resources and naval influence in the eastern Mediterranean that has sparked fears of conflict.

The aim of the talks is to "make progress in the consensus on the relationship of the EU with Turkey above all ahead of the 24-25 September EU summit," a French presidential official said.

Strain on Nato

Reaffirming Macron's policy towards Turkey, the official said that France wants a "clarification" in relations with Ankara which should be an "important" partner.

Turkey has sought to join the EU for many years and while its membership bid has stalled badly in the last few years, and is no longer seen as realistic in some quarters, it remains a candidate to join the bloc.

Turkey's hunt for gas and oil reserves in waters claimed by Greece has severely strained the relationship between the two NATO members.

Increased Military exercises

Turkey last month deployed its exploration vessel Oruc Reis in waters between Greece and Cyprus, which prompted Athens to stage naval exercises.

At the end of August, France joined Cyprus and Italy for military exercises in the east Mediterranean.

Some member states will be pressing for sanctions against Turkey at the EU summit, with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian saying at the weekend such measures were on the table.

Another cause of tension between France, as well as its EU allies, and Turkey has been Libya, where Ankara has engaged militarily in support of the UN-recognised Tripoli-based government. 

In an interview with AFP last week, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades denounced Turkey's "aggressiveness" which he said masked "an intention to control the whole area".

(with AFP)

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