News / Europe

Declining French-Turkish Relations Could Have Regional Implications

French President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) and Armenian President Serge Sarkisian applaud at the French Square, in Yerevan, Armenia, October 7, 2011.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) and Armenian President Serge Sarkisian applaud at the French Square, in Yerevan, Armenia, October 7, 2011.
Dorian Jones

Relations between Turkey and France appear to have reached a new low following the French president's call on Ankara to recognize the mass killings of Armenians before and during World War I as genocide. Turkey has angrily dismissed the call as no more than cheap electioneering. The increasingly worsening bilateral relations could have wider regional implications.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Friday strongly rejected French President Nicolas Sarkozy's demand that Turkey face up to its past.

He said any state with a colonial history does not have the right to give Turkey a lesson on confronting its history. Davutoglu said it would be beneficial if France confronts its own past.

Ankara says the mass killings of Armenians between 1915 and 1923 were a result of civil war and unrest during World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. But Armenia, along with much of the international community, says it was a genocide.

Sarkozy, during a visit to Armenia last week, indicated that legislation might be introduced to criminalize deniers of the genocide.

The French president also pressed another point of tension with Ankara by repeating his opposition to Turkey's bid to join the European Union, saying Turkey is not a European country. That opposition has contributed to a rapid deterioration in bilateral relations.

International relations expert Cengiz Aktar of Istanbul's Bahcesehir University said, "Top decision-makers like Nicolas Sarkozy was spitting on this country. This is not the way you deal with a future partner."

The Turkish government has dismissed the latest comments by Sarkozy as cheap electioneering ahead of next year's French presidential elections. But former Turkish diplomat and visiting Carnegie Europe scholar Sinan Ulgen said the two leaders' personalities also are adding to the diplomatic polarization.

"Both politicians are more or less of the same ilk. They [are] both known to be quite driven personalities, with a very active agenda and therefore when they come together, perhaps this clash [of] personalities has really harmed the relationship," said Ulgen.

Ulgen said the bilateral tensions are now manifesting themselves in countries of the Arab Spring, further deepening the divide between France and Turkey.

"We've recently seen a rivalry between Turkey and France after the onset of the Arab Spring, in particular when Turkey wanted to increase its influence, but also economic contacts within the region. France seems to be threatened by this Turkish position, given that in some of these countries, France has [a] privileged position that is now being challenged by Turkey," said Ulgen.

Last month, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, addressing the Arab League in Cairo, made what was widely seen as a thinly veiled attack on France.

He said the Arab countries must be on guard against forces that will try to divide them. He stressed that Turkey stands ready to help all those in need and is not motivated by the region's wealth - a reference to Libya's energy riches.

Paris and Ankara are jockeying for influence in Tripoli. Last month, the French and Turkish leaders made separate visits to the Libyan capital on the same day. But former Turkish diplomat Ulgen said such competition extends across the region and can be beneficial. He admitted, however, there also are risks.

"This increased competition will certainly help the economic development of the region. But, of course, on the political side, the fact that Turkey and France don't see eye-to-eye would complicate things, especially if the international community as a whole will be asked to give their support for these countries for transition towards better democracy," said Ulgen. "There, cooperation between Turkey and [the] EU in general, but Turkey and France in particular, would have been certainly helpful - but that's not likely to happen."

With the region at a critical and extremely volatile point in history, observers warn the bilateral tensions, and especially the increasingly bitter and personal rivalry between the leaders of France and Turkey, could well become another destabilizing factor.

You May Like

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

At Boston Bombing Hearing, Sides Spar Over Boat

At final pre-trial hearing, lawyers for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prosecutors disagree on whether vessel where he hid from police can be shown to jurors More

Iran Judiciary 'Picks' Lawyer for Detained WP Reporter

Masoud Shafii has been attempting to secure official recognition as Rezaian’s attorney, but is not allowed to see his client in prison More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More