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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license 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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid