France stands ready to engage in a deep and important dialogue with Turkey after months-long tension, the French ambassador to Turkey has said, stressing that a recent exchange of letters between the two presidents paved the way to bring bilateral ties to a more normal level.
Hervé Magro, the French ambassador to Turkey who arrived in Ankara in June 2020, explained the current state of ties between Turkey and France as well as on the recent revitalization of dialogue between the EU and Turkey in an interview with Hürriyet Daily News. The interview coincides with a renewed dialogue between Ankara and Paris in line with mutual efforts to normalize ties.
“Now, we have to exert efforts for a normal, deep and important dialogue. We are ready for this. We hope that Turkey is sharing the same goals,” Magro said.
“We have always been in favor of dialogue from the very beginning. We have to be able to talk about our disagreements as two allies. But the conditions on which a dialogue is grounded are also important,” he said, alluding to regional issues, including Syria, Libya and the eastern Mediterranean.
“We experienced a major escalation in 2020. We have to admit this,” the ambassador said, underlining that the two sides should now work to leave all these behind. “That’s why there are diplomats. The situation is getting better now but we should establish mutual trust,” he said.
“Of course, the latest statements are seen as positive signals and we seem to be on a right track. The vessels Barbaros Hayreddin Paşa and Oruç Reis have been withdrawn. Also, the exploratory talks between Turkey and Greece have resumed. But this process should sustain. I mean this should not be a trend to be pursued for just a couple of months. All these steps should not be taken just for the next EU Council meeting.”
Presidents’ letters ‘are important’
One important indication towards the reconciliation in Ankara-Paris ties was an exchange of letters between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and French President Emmanuel Macron.
“Mr. Erdoğan had sent a letter to wish ‘Get soon well’ and ‘New Year Greeting’ to Mr. Macron in December. And Mr. Macron replied to him in January. These letters are important because they outlined the positions of two presidents. Now, after that, we, the diplomats should work because as we enter into details, we should tackle the problems as well. And this was openly expressed by the two presidents. We have differences of opinions, but we should talk about them as two allies,” he said.
EU, too, endorses dialogue with Turkey
On a question about a recent intensification in dialogue between Turkey and the EU, Magro said it was important to observe all these developments but “what is important is what we’ll see in the coming months.”
“Now, everybody in Europe is backing this dialogue but it’s true that we are waiting for real and concrete steps from the Turkish side,” he said.
Depending on the course of the relations between Ankara and Brussels, as highlighted by the European Council during its last meeting, the agenda could cover the areas of economy and trade, as well as continued cooperation on migration issues, the French envoy noted.
Europe not against ‘a strong Turkey’
The place of Turkey in Europe and its image have always been a matter of discussion in Europe, especially in France and the recent tension has added more negative elements into it.
On a question about these discussions, Magro said: “To put it openly, Turkey’s image has not been improved. But I am also looking at it from a different perspective. One should remember that Turkey was cited as an example in the French media in 2000s. All the French magazines were writing about a new Turkish model. It was highlighted as an example to all Muslim countries.”
Istanbul became a world city in the same period and Turkey was hosting leaders, ministers and senior officials not only from France but from entire Europe, he said, “That means Europe is not opposed against Turkey and its power. I hear this here ‘Europeans do not want Turkey becoming a new power’. It’s nothing like that.”
‘We want to build a strategic dialogue’
Magro underlined that Turkey is a very important country which can help maintain balance in its region, stressing, “You also see that there is instability, wars and terrorism in this region. Turkey’s positive contribution is very much needed here, as it was in the 2000s, too. Turkey is of course a very big country with 80 million population and a growing economy. This was the case in 2000s and nobody at that time was concerned about Turkey’s growing power.”
The French diplomat noted that Turkey may have felt that its concerns were not fully understood. He recalled the French position as he said “We are not against Turkey, to the contrary, we want to establish a strategic dialogue with Turkey. But we did not approve some of the actions by Turkey that we deem contrary to the spirit of partnership that must prevail in our relations.”
Turkey’s positive role is very much expected in Europe, the ambassador said, conveying his authorities’ views as he was told: “It’s very important that Turkey plays a positive role. Turkey should understand this as well.”
Turkey, France to mark 100th anniversary of Ankara Agreement
As an important evidence on the rooted ties between Turkey and France, the ambassador recalled that 2021 marks the centennial of the Ankara Agreement between the two nations. “As you know, in 1921, France became the first Western nation that recognized the new Turkish authorities who built the new republic. Soviets did recognize them before us, but France was the first country signing a peace treaty with Turkey among the Western countries that had fought against Turkey,” he recalled.
“As I was serving the General Directorate of the Archives at the Foreign Ministry, I have some ideas on how to mark the anniversary. I hope our relations will improve until October and we can organize some good events,” the ambassador added.
Magro has unique ties with Turkey
Magro’s special bonds with Turkey pledge him a very special and unique place among all the foreign diplomats in the country. He was born in Ankara in 1960 and is now serving as the ambassador of the country some 60 years after he was born in the very same city.
“I was born here but stayed too short after my birth. We returned to Ankara when I was seven years old as my father was re-appointed. I lived here until the age of 13-14. I spent some of my best years here,” he said in fluent Turkish.
“I have memories everywhere, in every street of Ankara,” Magro said, adding that he learned Turkish while playing football with his Turkish friends.
“I served in Washington, Geneva and Jerusalem but, of course, Ankara is a very special place for me,” he said, indicating that Ankara was the first foreign post he was appointed to as a young diplomat. “I mean my diplomatic life had also started in Ankara.”
Hurriyet Daily News