ISTANBUL: France has urged the EU to impose further sanctions on Turkey if Ankara violates Greek or Cypriot maritime space.
The relationship between Paris and Ankara is already strained. In June, France accused Turkish ships of targeting one of its frigates when it went to inspect a Turkish-escorted Tanzanian-flagged cargo ship off the coast of Libya to check whether it was smuggling arms. Ankara denied the French claims.
The EU has already imposed some sanctions on Turkey for its drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, including travel bans and asset freezes for those involved in planning, directing and implementing offshore hydrocarbon exploration activities.
But French President Emmanuel Macron has asked for further sanctions to prevent Turkey continuing its activities, as Ankara recently issued an advisory for seismic surveys in the maritime zone between Cyprus and Crete to be carried out until Aug. 2. That area lies within the zone that Turkey has declared to the United Nations as its continental shelf, but Greece claims the surveys will intrude on its own continental shelf.
Ankara’s moves in the region are founded on a controversial maritime deal signed last year with Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA).
“In this part of the Mediterranean, energy and security issues are essential. What’s at stake is a power struggle in particular of Turkey and Russia which are asserting themselves more and more, in the face of which the EU is still doing too little,” Macron told reporters on Thursday. “It would be a serious mistake to leave our security in the Mediterranean in the hands of other actors. This is not an option for Europe and it is not something that France will let happen.”
Igor Delanoe, deputy director of the Moscow-based Observo French-Russian Analytical Center, told Arab News that he does not think relations between France and Turkey will improve in the near future, citing French support for the Kurds in Syria, Turkey’s military actions in Libya, along with the dispute over the Eastern Mediterranean.
“It remains to be seen (if) Paris’ stance can translate into a robust demonstration at sea. Frankly, I do not expect the EU to embark on such a standoff. I think the EU — mainly Germany — is too afraid of potential retaliation from Turkey, which could result in a new influx of migrants,” he said.
Ruwan Al-Rejoleh, an independent analyst in Washington, DC, said the relationship between Turkey and France has deteriorated massively since Turkey’s covert military intervention in Libya last month.
“The East Mediterranean is the new energy battlefield, especially for gas. I don’t think there will be any improvement in the relationship. Turkey is determined to expand its regional influence in North Africa through Libya and doesn’t seem to be backing off on expanding this influence in the East Med,” she told Arab News.
“The gas pipeline that Turkey finalized with Russia will be connected to Nord Stream 2. This is definitely going to impact France’s relationship with Germany. I believe that we are going to witness more tension between Turkey and France, more mobilization for creating new European alliances, and deepened division in the EU itself,” she said.