French President Emmanuel Macron held a tense meeting with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday where he warned Ankara to “respect Cyprus’ sovereignty” after Turkish warships operating off the Cypriot coast have prevented Italian energy giant Eni from drilling within the eastern Mediterranean island’s internationally recognised exclusive economic zone.
The meeting between the two heads of state and NATO allies also focused on the ongoing war in Syria. Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag on February 25 told government-linked propaganda network Anadolu Agency that military operations in the Afrin region would not be affected by a recent UN Security Council Resolution that brokered a nation-wide ceasefire for Syria as well as the distribution of aid and medical evacuations, conditions that Macron categorically reiterated must include the Kurdish-held Afrin region.
The Turks launched a massive ground and air operation in northern Syria in late January to combat Syria’s YPG Kurdish forces, Ankara considers the US-backed YPG to be a terrorist organisation allied to Turkey’s banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK, who have fought a low-level guerrilla war against the Turkish government for nearly 40 years, has been classified as a terrorist group by the US, EU, and UN.
France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is engaged in a whirlwind of shuttle diplomacy in an attempt to drum-up support for the Security Council ceasefire initiative. Le Drian will be in Russia on Tuesday in an effort to enlist Moscow’s support in putting pressure on Erdogan’s government to observe the ceasefire.