Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron met on the sidelines of the NATO summit this week, following bickering over international crises such as Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh which led to bitter personal diatribes from the Turkish leader.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM television that he welcomed the change in tone but that it must be accompanied by more concrete measures from Ankara.
“There is a kind of verbal ceasefire. It’s good but it’s not enough, ”he said.
“The verbal ceasefire does not mean action, and we expect Turkey to act on sensitive issues,” he said, citing Libya, Syria and also the eastern Mediterranean, where France has supported EU members Greece and Cyprus angry at Turkish advances in the waters.
Le Drian also said that France was particularly keen to work with Turkey on Libya, where Ankara sent troops backed by thousands of Syrian militias to strengthen the UN-backed government.
“We will see if President Erdogan has changed more than his words but also his actions,” said Le Drian.
Macron warned earlier this year that Turkey would try to interfere in France’s 2022 presidential election.
He suggested that Ankara’s unilateral actions in the international arena and its purchase of S-400 air defense missile systems from Russia contributed to a “brain death” of NATO, of which Turkey is a key member. .
A new law against Islamist extremism introduced by the French government after a series of attacks has also angered Erdogan, the Turkish leader accusing France of Islamophobia.
Erdogan said last year that Macron needed “mental checks” and expressed hope that France would “get rid” of Macron as soon as possible.
But there have been tentative signs of easing tensions in recent months, with Erdogan keen to strengthen ties with Turkey’s western partners at a time of growing economic hardship at home, made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Another sign of warming relations, France this week removed Turkey from its red list of countries banned from non-essential travel, allowing fully vaccinated French tourists to spend their holidays there.
At the NATO summit in Brussels, Erdogan also had his first talks with Joe Biden as America’s leader, although he did not indicate any plans to abandon the deployment of Russian S-400 missiles.