RTL Today – France welcomes Mediterranean leaders for summit on Turkish tensions


French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes the leaders of Mediterranean states to a summit on Thursday that will be dominated by growing tensions between Turkey and EU states east of the sea.

EuroMed 7 is an informal group of seven EU Mediterranean states, sometimes referred to as “Club Med”, which held its first summit in 2016 and notably does not include Turkey.

But the meeting on the French island of Corsica will bring together leaders from France, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain with EU members from the Eastern Mediterranean, Greece and Cyprus.

France has strongly supported Greece and Cyprus in a growing stalemate with Turkey over hydrocarbon resources and naval influence in the eastern Mediterranean, which has raised fears of conflict.

The summit will start around 15:00 GMT in a seaside resort just outside Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica.

The aim of the talks is “to advance the consensus on EU relations with Turkey above all before the European summit on 24 and 25 September,” said a French presidential official.

Reaffirming Macron’s policy towards Turkey, the official said France wanted “clarification” in relations with Ankara which should be an “important” partner.

Turkey has sought to join the EU for over half a century, and although its membership application has stalled in recent years and is no longer seen as realistic in some quarters, it remains a candidate to join the bloc.

– ‘Same desire’ –

Turkey’s hunt for gas and oil reserves in waters claimed by Greece has severely strained relations between the two NATO members.

Turkey last month deployed its exploration vessel Oruc Reis in the waters between Greece and Cyprus, prompting Athens to hold naval exercises.

Some member states will push for sanctions against Turkey at the EU summit, with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian saying this weekend such measures were on the table.

Referring to the disputed areas claimed by Greece and Cyprus as their exclusive economic zones, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to “tear up immoral maps and documents”.

Another cause of tension between France, as well as its EU allies, and Turkey has been Libya, where Ankara has made a military commitment to support the UN-recognized Tripoli-based government.

Before the summit, Macron will meet with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Greek media have said that France’s possible sale of Rafale fighter jets could be on the table, a sign of the growing alliance between Paris and Athens.

In an interview with AFP last week, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades denounced Turkey’s “aggressiveness” which he said masked “an intention to control the entire area”.

EuroMed 7 came into being against the backdrop of the economic crisis in Greece which had caused tension between southern EU members and their more frugal counterparts in the north.

They “share the same desire to stimulate a new dynamic of cooperation” in the region, “especially on issues of sustainable development and sovereignty,” Macron’s office said.


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