Ankara: France And Turkey: New Horizons For A Long-Standing Relation


Hurriyet Daily News, Turkey
Dec 11 2012


Send to friend ” Share on linkedinThe president of the French
Republic has marked France’s will to establish a “stable and trusting
relationship” with Turkey. In preparation for his forthcoming visit
to Turkey, I would like to encourage us here and now to drive forward
our bilateral relations.

We often find that little is known about the importance of our
economic and trade relations. Who today knows that Turkey is our
12th customer worldwide, and our fifth largest market outside the
EU and Switzerland, well ahead of emerging countries such as Brazil
and India? In recent years, our trade has flourished with exports to
Turkey having increased by two and a half times in just 10 years.

France has an impressive network of 10 world-class, French-speaking
establishments in Turkey. In the scientific field, we conduct joint
world-class projects every year on the Programme Bosphore.

As NATO allies, France and Turkey take part in joint missions. Our
relationship offers all the more opportunities to work together,
since Turkish foreign policy has largely broadened its horizons this
last decade.

The Arab Spring has challenged some well-rooted principles and views.

The people have rallied and shown that the aspiration for freedom
and justice is universal. France and Turkey have acknowledged this
sea change by providing their support for the legitimate aspirations
of the Arab peoples and supporting their move towards democratic,
pluralistic institutions. Today our two countries are among the most
active in seeking a resolution to the Syrian conflict, increasing
the pressure on Bashar al-Assad’s regime for him to stand down.

I would like to tell the Turkish people how much I appreciate the huge
efforts made by their country to receive Syrian refugees on their soil.

When President Francois Hollande took office, he wasted no time in
stepping up high-level meetings with President Abdullah Gul and Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. My government is keen to develop our
relations with Turkey.

The European Union needs a strong Turkey with a sound, buoyant economy,
just as Turkey needs the European Union, which represents nearly 50
percent of its foreign trade.

With the adoption of the “Positive Agenda” and the prospect of visa
liberalization, we have a certain number of tools on the table. We
are set to take the negotiations forward on Turkey’s accession in
good faith, considering the past commitments without anticipating
the future in all its details. Since the protection of individual
and collective freedoms is a pillar of the European project, human
rights and civil liberties need to be promoted further. I subscribe,
in this regard, to President Gul’s words when he said that Turkey’s
relations with its Western allies are not just a foreign and security
issue but are based on common values which, he concluded, should lead
Turkey to continue down the reform road.

The question of the Armenian genocide is a sensitive and difficult
subject that has all too often cast a shadow over our bilateral
relations. In Turkey, many criticize France for embracing the “Armenian
theses.” In France, many feel that Turkey is trying to minimize, if
not deny the tragedy that befell the ancestors of our compatriots of
Armenian origin. Things are changing. My colleague Ahmet Davutoglu
has made encouraging statements. I quote, “The Armenians have before
them someone who is listening. This foreign minister does not claim
that nothing happened in 1915.”

For myself, I am not unaware of Turkey’s share of suffering during the
gradual dismantlement of the Ottoman Empire, with its succession of
massacres and exoduses. However, I do believe that the disappearance of
the Armenian civilization from Anatolian soil warrants some thinking on
Turkey’s part as to what is needed to heal the wounds opened in 1915.

I hope that one day soon, we can achieve a calm, fair reading of
history. In the meantime, we should try to learn to live with respect
for the diversity of the legacies of which we are the guardians.

We have a great deal to do and to develop in all sectors of our
cooperation, in the cultural and scientific areas, in internal
security, in justice, in agriculture, and in business, in particular
to encourage French businesses to work with the Turkish market and
to encourage Turkish firms to invest in France.

The progress made in these areas, and the progress ongoing, means
that today we can look forward to our future relations with optimism
and ambition. I welcome this progress and will personally work on
further developments with strength and conviction.

* Laurent Fabius is the minister of foreign affairs of the French
Republic. This abridged article was originally published in the Fall
2012 issue of Turkish Policy Quarterly (TPQ).