In a show of solidarity with Cyprus, French President Emmanuel Macron sent a stern message to Turkey on Thursday that Paris and the European Union will not tolerate violations in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“The European Union and France will not show any weakness in this respect,” the French leader said during his meeting on Thursday in Paris with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Noting the need for vigilance and solidarity with regard to Turkey’s activities in the Eastern Mediterranean within Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Macron highlighted the need for cooperation to deal with common challenges in what he described as a “fragmented geopolitical environment.”
For his part, Mitsotakis told Greek journalists that “Europe will not leave Cyprus unprotected.”
However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared defiant.
Speaking after the joint press conference of Macron and Mitsotakis, he reportedly insisted that Turkey is determined to continue its activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“We will continue to defend the interests of Turkish Cypriots on the island with the same determination that we defend our own,” he said after meeting with the leadership of the Turkish Cypriots.
The two sides also reportedly discussed defense cooperation, with a focus on French Mirage fighter jets and frigates.
Asked earlier in the day by Le Figaro newspaper about the participation of French energy giant Total in a consortium that will prospect for hydrocarbons off southern Crete, Mitsotakis said the presence of large European companies from allied countries essentially serves as a protective shield in the region.
“It contributes to the preservation of an environment of security and stability in the region,” he said, adding that Greece is a steady champion of “peaceful coexistence based on the rules of good-neighborly relations and international law.”
Turkey, he said, should act in the same way, while he stressed that he is looking forward to cooperating with Erdogan to deal with common challenges faced by the two countries, such as migration.
Referring to the Greek economy, Mitsotakis told Le Figaro that it could be the “eurozone’s surprise” and invited French investors to turn to Greece. He also said he remains committed to the goal of reducing primary surpluses, adding that the issue will be discussed in 2021.
As for migration, both leaders decried the refusal of EU countries to share the burden.
The French president stressed the need for a European solution to the migration impasse while acknowledging that Greece has taken on a large burden and ruing the fact that other countries have failed to do so.
Mitsotakis called for “genuine European solidarity” on migration so that the burden is not only shouldered by “the countries that are on the external borders of Europe.”
Judging from their joint statements, the agenda of the meeting focused on a wide range of European issues, and not only those relating to Macron’s agenda – many of which Mitsotakis is seeking to champion, such as the Green Agenda to tackle climate change.
According to reports, they also discussed the importance of building political alliances to deal with common challenges, such as climate change, that transcend the traditional party lines that have divided Europe’s large political groupings, allowing for synergies between Europe’s conservatives, liberals, socialists and Greens.