In what is being seen in Athens as an attempt by Ankara to drive a wedge between Paris and Athens, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reportedly asked French President Emmanuel Macron to lift French objections to Turkey’s procurement of European-made air defense systems.
According to a report by the Bloomberg news agency, Erdogan asked Macron to drop his opposition to co-production of the Eurosam SAMP/T missile defense systems during a telephone call earlier this week. Macron responded by saying that Turkey must clarify its objectives in Syria before the deployment of European-made systems could be considered, the report said.
The move by Erdogan came ahead of a scheduled visit to Greece by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, his second in a year, which was hailed by Washington as underlining increasingly strong bilateral ties.
“Secretary Pompeo will meet with Prime Minister Mitsotakis and Foreign Minister Dendias to renew our shared commitment to advance security, peace, and prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean and celebrate the strongest US-Greek relationship in decades,” the US State Department said.
Pompeo is to arrive in Thessaloniki on Sunday night and to meet there with Nikos Dendias on Monday before traveling to Crete, where he will visit the Souda Bay naval base on Tuesday, “to underscore the strong US security partnership with NATO ally Greece,” the announcement added. While on Crete, Pompeo is also to meet with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the latter’s family home.
In a speech at the United Nations General Assembly Friday, Mitsotakis sent a message to Ankara ahead of the planned resumption of exploratory talks between the two countries. “Let’s give diplomacy a chance,” he said. “If, after all, we still cannot agree, then we should trust the wisdom of the International Court at The Hague.”