Erdogan tells Macron cooperation has ‘very serious potential’

In a video call, the Turkish president says dialogue has always played an important role in relations as NATO members work to normalise ties.

Last year Turkey and France repeatedly traded barbs over international issues including conflicts in Syria, Libya, and the Eastern Mediterranean [File: Arif Hudaverdi Yaman via Reuters]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told French President Emmanuel Macron that cooperation between the two countries has “very serious potential” as the NATO members work to normalise ties after bitter disputes last year.

In a statement, the Turkish presidency said on Tuesday Erdogan told Macron in a video call that dialogue between leaders has always played an important role in relations.

“As two strong NATO allies, we can make significant contributions to peace, stability, and peace efforts in a wide geography – from Europe to the Caucasus, the Middle East, and Africa,” Erdogan said.

He noted 2021 marks the centennial of the Ankara Agreement, which is the basis of Turkish-French bilateral relations and said the two countries have “serious cooperation potential”.

Erdogan said the two nations can take joint steps to fight “terrorism”, stressing it threatens both countries and their people.

“We hope Turkey and France can act in solidarity on all these issues,” he said.

Bitter personal feud

Last year Turkey and France repeatedly traded barbs over international issues including conflicts in Syria, Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh, and the Eastern Mediterranean. But the NATO members said last month they were working on a plan to normalise relations.

In January the presidents exchanged letters in which they agreed to resume talks aimed at mending ties.

Erdogan wrote a New Year message to Macron, expressing condolences for several attacks in France last year.

Macron responded with a “very positive” letter, saying he was open to a meeting, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by local media.

Macron’s response proposed collaboration over “bilateral consultations, terrorism, regional issues such as Syria and Libya, and a partnership on education”, according to the Turkish official.

Diplomatic tensions last year have been accompanied by a bitter personal feud between the two men.

At a meeting with European Union leaders in September, Macron commented on the Eastern Mediterranean standoff between Turkey and Greece saying: “The people of Turkey, who are a great people, deserve something else.”

Ankara slammed the comment as meddling in domestic affairs.

In October, Macron said Islam was a religion “in crisis” globally, triggering a harsh response in the Muslim world, which called for a boycott of French products.

Erdogan joined the call and said, on two different occasions, that Macron needed a mental health checkup, prompting France to recall its envoy to Turkey in October for consultations after deeming Erdogan’s speech “unacceptable”.

He also accused Macron of “Islamophobia” and urged French voters to “get rid of Macron as soon as possible”.

Heeding calls from France and Greece, the EU in December agreed to prepare an expanded list of Turkish individuals to sanction for Ankara’s decision to drill for natural gas in Eastern Mediterranean waters near Cyprus, but postponed any harsher steps until March.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies