What do France’s sanction threats signify for Ankara? - MEHMET ACET

What do France’s sanction threats signify for Ankara?

Upon the publication of my Monday column, in which I discussed the impacts of the tensions between Turkey and France in various fields, I received an intriguing message from a former state official.

In their message, they touched on the criticality of the East Mediterranean matter for France and said, “In its National Security Strategy Document, the East Mediterranean is a priority for France. This is also the primary purpose of the sole aircraft carrier they have.”

This very person also suggested that in addition to Ankara following through with its coercive diplomacy in the East Mediterranean matter, which “prioritizes military force,” it should also simultaneously strengthen ties with EU and NATO countries in order to weaken the “alliance-forming” moves led by France.


When we take a closer and more careful look, we are able to see that an administration policy suitable to this suggestion is already being exhibited. A policy that, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan states, runs the channels of “coercive” diplomacy by presenting the will “to claim its rights, by force if necessary, while it does not have its sights on the rights of another,” but also “verbally”strives to protect its rights, law through direct diplomacy.

Does such a policy exist?

Yes it does.

We can evaluate President Erdoğan’s video conference meeting last week with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the meetings he held with NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg, his communication with European Council President Charles Michel within such a context.

As is known, the European Union Summit is going to be held on Sept. 24-25, and France is trying to make Turkey the top agenda item at this summit. French Foreign Minister Le Drian made statements a few days ago showing how ill his country’s intentions are concerning Turkey. The French minister said regarding the East Mediterranean, “It is up to the Turks to show that this matter can be negotiated. If they can do this, we may be able to develop a productive cycle for all the problems on the table.”

Following these statements, he came to the point about EU sanctions targeting Turkey and uttered these threat-harboring statements:

“We’ve discussed all sorts of measures. This is going to be the top priority at the Sept. 24-25 Summit. We have options. He [Erdoğan] knows this.”


In order to understand what the French foreign minister’s words signify, to understand how they are perceived in Turkey, I asked two different top-level figures who hold seats in Ankara’s decision-making mechanisms, “How do you interpret these words?”

One of these figures said:

“The sanction threat is a futile effort. This approach will only serve to strengthen our determination. The EU must be impartial and it must now see and accept Greece’s unilateral, maximalist, and pro-tension attitude.”

The other top-level official said:

“Turkey is pursuing the rights it is afforded by international law. If France is pursuing an option, it should first look for options against Greece, which is always far from dialogue and diplomacy. It should be known that confronting Turkey with threats and sanctions will only prove detrimental to those who choose to enforce these. Turkey is not without options. It has alternative scenarios ready for any sort of development. We have always preferred dialogue and diplomacy. Germany and the EU have very clearly witnessed our attitude in this respect. We presented the same attitude in NATO. But it should be understood once and for all that appearing to unconditionally support Greece, which never keeps its word and constantly leaves those who trust it out in the cold, under the name of “EU solidarity” is a dead end.”

We can deduce a few things from the responses received in relation to how the French foreign minister’s words concerning Turkey can be interpreted.

For example, such things as the following can be said:

-The sanction threat will not work on Turkey (See the responses that emerged during a similar process with the U.S.). The EU must act fairly and see that Greece is acting spoiled.

-The fact that Germany in particular realized that Ankara prefers dialogue and diplomacy, and that it is displaying an attitude to this end is significant.

Though Germans are acting in alignment with EU solidarity, they are disturbed that the French are including military force in the equation and following the strategy of being Europe’s superpower.

Second, they too see that Greece is acting with a maximalist attitude concerning the East Mediterranean, and as reflected in Merkel’s statement 10 days ago, they prefer to support Greece “only with respect to matters where it is in the right.”

Conversely, this approach is the acknowledgement that Turkey also has rights in the East Mediterranean.


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