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Sarkozy’s visit to Turkey: a disappointment for Ankara

March 2, 2011

Friday, French President Nicholas Sarkozy visited the Turkish capital Ankara for a couple of hours as chairman of the G-20 group of leading economies. During his visit, the French President exchanged views with Turkey on the issues related to the G-20 group but also Turkey’s bid to join European Union and the developments in the Middle East. As term presidents are not obliged to visit all member countries at the highest level, this visit was nothing but an excuse to patch-up French-Turkish relations that have suffered. Indeed, French-Turkish relations began in the 16th century with the alliance between Francis I and Suleiman the Magnificient. After a balmy period of nearly three centuries, relations became more complex. The last official visit from a French leader was by François Mitterrand 19 years ago and two previous official visits by French leaders were by Charles de Gaulle in 1968 and Empress Eugénie in 1869!

Sarkozy began his anti-Turkey approach long before he was elected president and maintained his position during his presidential tenure. Sarkozy says that Turkey, the mainly Muslim country, does not belong to Europe, and, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, insists for a special partnership for Turkey.

Despite the fact that Sarkozy confirmed that he would like to make a state visit to Turkey in 2011, his positive tone changed when french journalists questioned the french opposition to Turkey’s full membership in the EU. Out of 35 chapters that EU candidates must negotiate, Turkey has so far opened 13 chapters since the formal negotiations began in 2005. France is blocking 5 chapters in Turkey’s accession negotiations, while Brussels froze 8 chapters because of Turkey’s unwilling to open its ports to Greek Cyprus. Although, Turkish President Abdullah Gul reiterated that the negotiation process had begun with the approval of all EU members, Sarkozy insisted again on finding an alternative to full membership of Turkey in the EU.

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