Turkey president heads off to France seeking thaw in EU relations

Source:AFP Published: 2018/1/3 23:25:33

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday visits Paris for talks with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, seeking to start the new year by warming relations with the European Union after a torrid 2017.

Macron will host Erdogan at the Elysee Palace with talks expected to range from Syria to trade ties, and the French side is also expected to sound concern over the human rights situation in Turkey.

But high on the agenda will be Turkey's relations with the EU, which Ankara has sought to join for the last 50 years in an epic membership saga that appeared to hit the buffers amid bitter rows in 2017.

"By getting closer to France, Turkey is seeking to give a new boost to its EU membership bid," said Jana Jabbour, professor of political science at Sciences Po university in Paris and the author of a book on Turkish foreign policy.

She told AFP this need was especially acute at a time of diplomatic tensions with the United States following US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The Turkish leader has been a frequent visitor to Russia, the Gulf and Africa over the last year but has been rarely sighted in Europe since the July 15, 2016 coup bid aimed at removing him from power.

The visit to France will be his first since the botched putsch. Over the last year - discounting G20 and NATO summits - Erdogan's only trips to EU member states have been to Poland and Greece.

Erdogan last week appeared to hold out an olive branch to the EU, saying "we must reduce the number of enemies and increase the number of friends."

He praised Macron - as well as the German leadership - for support over the Jerusalem issue, saying the EU and Ankara were on the same page. The shared opposition of Brussels and Ankara to Trump's move could itself stimulate better relations.

Ahead of the visit, Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin described France as a "leading ally" and expressed hope that the visit would further boost their alliance.

The Elysee said that as well as Syria and the Palestinian issue, "the issue of human rights" would be discussed.


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