Macron urges tough EU stance against Turkish ‘provocations’

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron urged fellow European leaders yesterday to stand up to the Turkish government and what he called “unacceptable” provocations as Turkey seeks to expand its energy resources and influence in the eastern Mediterranean.

Leaders of European Union (EU) countries that border the Mediterranean Sea were holding an emergency summit in Corsica amid fears of an open conflict with Turkey stemming from mounting tensions over offshore oil and gas drilling. Turkish leaders have lashed out at France and the EU for siding with Greece and Cyprus in the dispute.

“Turkey is no longer a partner in this region,” Macron told reporters ahead of the island summit. “We Europeans need to be clear and firm”, with the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about its “inadmissible behaviour”, he said.

Macron didn’t elaborate on what specific actions he wants European countries to take, but said they should lay out “red lines” with Turkey and try to restart dialogue.

“We Mediterraneans need to live in peace,” the French leader said.

“Our goal is to avoid all escalation, but avoiding escalation should not mean passiveness or acceptance,” he added. “It is up to Turkey to clarify its intentions.”

Greece and Turkey have deployed naval and air forces to assert competing claims over energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkish survey vessels and drill ships continue to prospect for gas in waters where Greece and Cyprus claim exclusive economic rights.

France is carrying out military patrols in the region in a show of support for Greece and Cyprus, and the EU is mulling new sanctions against Turkey.

Separate from the diplomatic discussions, Turkish and Greek military officials met on Wednesday at NATO headquarters, as part of ongoing meetings aimed at reducing the risk of armed conflict. Greece and Turkey both are NATO members.

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