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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

Alaskans experiencing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more frequent and extensive wildfires, deteriorating glaciers, and swift shoreline erosion More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs