France, US share worry about Turkish behaviour

“France’s president Emmanuel Macron and I agree that Turkey’s recent actions have been very aggressive,” Pompeo said.
Tuesday 17/11/2020
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) meets with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace, November 16. DPA
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) meets with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace, November 16. (DPA)

PARIS--The US administration and Europe need to work jointly to address actions led by Turkey in the Middle East over the past few months, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told French daily newspaper Le Figaro.

“France’s president Emmanuel Macron and I agree that Turkey’s recent actions have been very aggressive,” Pompeo said, citing Turkey’s recent support of Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Armenia as well as military moves in Libya and the Mediterranean.

“Europe and the US must work together to convince Erdogan such actions are not in the interest of his people,” Pompeo said, referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Pompeo said increased use of Turkey’s military capability was a concern, but he did not say whether the country, which hosts US military forces at its Incirlik Air Base, should stay in or quit the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

Tensions between Turkey and France have flared this year over Ankara’s involvement in the Libyan conflict, support of Islamist militias and attempts to impose a fait accompli in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In recent months, it has become clear that France wants to curb the more than obvious Turkish appetite for control over the Eastern Mediterranean region.

Ankara began by signing an agreement on demarcating maritime borders with Libya’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), then intervened militarily to overturn the balance of power in the country’s civil war.

Next, Ankara escalated tensions with Cyprus and then Greece by conducting exploration operations for oil and gas on the continental shelf, leading to an open competition with France about which foreign power shall have a strong presence in Lebanon following the Beirut blast.

The US secretary of state arrived in Paris Saturday at the start of a seven-nation trip to US allies, although his official schedule was extremely light for a two-night stay in the French capital.

His sole engagements on Monday before heading to Istanbul were talks with Macron and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, as well as a wreath-laying ceremony to remember victims of terror attacks.

The State Department said Pompeo and Macron “discussed significant threats to global security, efforts to counter violent extremism.”

These included, according to the statement, Iran’s “destabilising” behaviour and the “malign influence” of Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah in Lebanon.

He stressed “the importance of the transatlantic alliance and NATO unity,” the department said, following a Trump presidency that had not always seen Europe and the United States in unison.

They also discussed “efforts to counter the Chinese Communist Party.”

In his talks with Le Drian, Pompeo took an even stronger line against Beijing, discussing “our strong alliance in countering the Chinese Communist Party’s malign activity in Europe and human rights abuses in Xinjiang.”