18:36 GMT30 September 2020
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    Paris took Athens’ side in the Turkish-Greece dispute over exclusive rights to wide swathes of the eastern Mediterranean Sea last month, sending warships and jets to the disputed area to drill with the Greek, Cypriot and Italian navies after a Turkish surveying vessel began exploring for gas in an area between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete.

    Omer Celik, a spokesman for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, has taken issue with French President Emmanuel Macron’s comments calling on the European Union to unite against and get tough with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, blasting Paris for its alleged “colonialist mentality.”

    “Macron said that ‘we have a problem with Erdogan, not with the Turkish people’. This is an old and shameless ploy of the colonialists. They show their false love in order to exploit nations, but attack patriotic leaders. The colonialist attack on our president is an honour for us,” Celik wrote in a multi-tweet thread.

    “It is Macron who brought a country like France to its current, depressing state,” the senior politician added. “Macron is trying to cover up his inability to lead France with an aggressive foreign policy. He is responsible for [Khalifa] Haftar’s mass graves [in Libya]. Macron, using Greece, is trying to play the colonial game in the Eastern Mediterranean. And he attacks our president because he does not allow him to carry out his aggressive policy in the region,” Celik added.

    The spokesman warned Paris not to “confuse” Turkey with ‘tribal states’ “that you can easily fool,” and warned that Ankara would provide “the most appropriate response to your threats” in the event of any French aggression.

    Macron Calls for Tough Stand Against Turkey

    Earlier Thursday, speaking to reporters ahead of a summit meeting of EU Mediterranean states, Macron called on the continent to adopt a “united and clear voice” in relation to Turkey, accusing Ankara of “No longer [being] a partner in this region” due to its recent actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and its involvement in the Libyan civil war.

    “We Europeans need to be clear and firm with the government of President Erdogan which today is behaving in an unacceptable manner,” Macron said, calling on the EU to lay out “red lines” with Turkey while simultaneously working to “restart a fruitful dialogue.” He also clarified that the EU “must be tough with the Turkish government and not with the Turkish people, who deserve more than the Erdogan government.”

    “Our goal is to avoid all escalation, but avoiding escalation should not mean passiveness or acceptance,” Macron warned.

    Along with Macron, Thursday’s summit brought together leaders from Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain, Greece and Cyprus at a coastal resort on the French island of Corsica.

    The Turkish Foreign Ministry called Macron’s comments “arrogant,” and suggested that they were a “reflection of his incompetence and despair.”

    “Macron is jauntily attacking our president every day as we have disrupted their dirty games and dashed their sneaky plans in foreign influence,” the ministry added, suggesting that Paris has no authority to define maritime jurisdiction in the eastern Mediterranean.

    Turkey has repeatedly criticized France for its alleged “interference” in the Turkish-Greek dispute over exclusive economic rights in the eastern Mediterranean. Last week, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar accused Paris of acting like a “Mafiosi,” and warned that Turkey would not accept “those who come from thousands of kilometers away to try to bully, claim rights and play the role of guardian angel.”

    A woman looks through binoculars as Greek and French vessels sail in formation during a joint military exercise in Mediterranean sea, in this undated handout image
    © REUTERS / Greek Ministry of Defense
    A woman looks through binoculars as Greek and French vessels sail in formation during a joint military exercise in Mediterranean sea, in this undated handout image

    France deployed warships and fighter jets to the region in mid-August amid the escalation of tensions between Turkey and Greece over the Oruc Reis vessel’s gas exploration activities in an area of the Mediterranean Sea claimed by Greece. The Turkish vessel began its drilling soon after Greece and Egypt signed an exclusive economic zone agreement carving up large swathes of the Mediterranean between the two of them.

    Greece and Egypt signed the agreement over half a year after Turkey and the Ankara-backed government in western Libya signed a maritime delimitation deal in December 2019 laying claim to wide swathes of sea areas also claimed by Greece.

    European leaders rejected the agreement between Ankara and Tripoli, saying the deal “infringes upon the sovereign rights of third states” and “does not comply with the Law of the Sea.”

    On Sunday, Erdogan warned Greece not to turn down talks in the Mediterranean dispute, saying that “they’re either going to understand the language of politics and diplomacy, or in the field with painful experiences.”

    The two NATO powers’ militaries have reported a series of dangerous incidents since the dispute began, with warships from the two countries reportedly slamming into one another near the Oruc Reis last month, and fighter jets reportedly engaging in mock dogfights in the Aegean Sea, where Athens and Ankara have a separate, long-standing maritime dispute. Greece has also reported a spike in Turkish submarine activity off its shores, and has dispatched aircraft fitted with sonar to detect them.

    Related:

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    Tensions Between France, Turkey Leave NATO in Limbo
    Turkey Warns France Against Escalation Over Oruc Reis Vessel in Mediterranean
    Mediterranean Crisis: Turkey Slams ‘Imperialist’ France Over Syria-Style ‘Red Lines’
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