Macron urges firm EU stance against Turkish ‘provocations’

Ankara seeks to expand its energy resources and influence in the eastern Mediterranean. (Reuters)
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Updated 11 September 2020

Macron urges firm EU stance against Turkish ‘provocations’

  • He said European nations should set “red lines” for Turkey

ANKARA: French President Emmanuel Macron has urged fellow European leaders to stand up to the Turkish government and what he called its “unacceptable” provocations as Ankara seeks to expand its energy resources and influence in the eastern Mediterranean.

Leaders of EU countries that border the Mediterranean Sea held an emergency summit in Corsica on Thursday amid fears that mounting tensions over offshore oil and gas drilling rights might escalate into an open conflict with Turkey. Turkish leaders have criticized France and the EU for siding with Greece and Cyprus in the dispute.

“Turkey is no longer a partner in this region,” Macron said before the summit began. “We Europeans need to be clear and firm” about the “inadmissible behavior” of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, he added.

He said European nations should set “red lines” for Turkey and try to restart negotiations, adding: “We Mediterraneans need to live in peace. Our goal is to avoid all escalation, but avoiding escalation should not mean passiveness or acceptance. It is up to Turkey to clarify its intentions.”

Dimitar Bechev, a fellow of the Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan US international affairs think tank, told Arab News: “France is already pushing Germany to adopt a united voice on its policy toward Turkey, but I suppose there will be foot dragging. Central and Eastern European countries — Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland — are not eager to pick a fight, either.”

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He said that he does not expect the dispute to escalate quickly, however.

“There might be some diplomatic sanctions, such as travel bans and asset freezes, hitting Erdogan’s inner circle but not him personally,” he said. “But they will remain symbolic.”

Bechev suggested that Europe should engage with Ankara but project strength, as the EU and Turkey have both common and clashing interests and positions.

“Turkey won’t get any concessions and will probably go on drilling,” he added

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry described Macron’s statement as “arrogant” and reminiscent of “old colonial reflexes.” It accused the French president of stoking tensions and putting the “greater interests” of Europe at risk.

Addressing EU lawmakers, Greek European Affairs Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis appealed for support from European partners, warning that the tensions over energy rights “constitute by themselves a grave threat to our common security architecture.”

He said Turkey is looking beyond Greece and represents “a major destabilizing factor in the wider area,” citing as evidence of this the Turkish government’s actions in Libya, Syria and elsewhere.

Greece will not provoke a conflict, he added, but nor will it sit back wait for European help to arrive. “At the end of the day, we will defend ourselves, even alone,” he said.

At the Corsica summit, France is calling on European leaders to push for a resumption of German mediation efforts in the eastern Mediterranean dispute. Russia also offered this week to mediate.
 


Israeli cabinet tightens coronavirus lockdown as infections climb

Updated 11 min 11 sec ago

Israeli cabinet tightens coronavirus lockdown as infections climb

JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet decided on Thursday to tighten Israel's coronavirus lockdown after he voiced alarm that a surge in infections was pushing the nation to "the edge of the abyss".
Israel went back into lockdown, its second during the pandemic, on Sept. 18. But over the past week, the number of daily new cases has reached nearly 7,000 among a population of 9 million, severely straining the resources of some hospitals.
"We reached a decision to pull the handbrake," Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch said on Israel Radio about the cabinet decision, without giving precise details of the restrictions.
Israel Radio and several Israeli news sites said the revised edicts, due to take effect on Friday pending parliamentary ratification, will allow fewer businesses to operate, and only in "essential" sectors such as finance, energy, health, technology, agriculture and food sales and production.
The current 1,000-metre (0.6-mile)- limit on travel from home, except for activities such as grocery and medicine shopping and commuting to work, will now also apply to attendance at street protests, the news reports said.
The revised edict was likely to put a damper on demonstrations outside Netanyahu's Jerusalem residence, where protesters, many of them from outside the city, have been calling for his resignation over alleged corruption.
He has denied charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in a trial that resumes in January, and rejected allegations from protest activists that a tougher lockdown was essentially aimed at quashing the demonstrations against him.
"In the past two days, we heard from the experts that if we don't take immediate and difficult steps, we will reach the edge of the abyss," Netanyahu said in public remarks to the cabinet, which met for about eight hours.
Schools will remain closed, but the cabinet decided against shuttering synagogues on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, next week, media reported. The number of worshippers, however, will be limited.
Infection rates in close-quarter ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods and towns in Israel have been high, but religious parties in the coalition government had opposed shuttering synagogues.
Since the outbreak began, 1,316 people have died in Israel and some 200,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported.
The current second wave of infections followed an easing in May of a lockdown imposed in March.