French President Emmanuel Macron is taking his country on a dangerous path with regards to the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya, a policy misstep that threatens NATO, according to regional experts.
Earlier this week, France announced it would “temporarily" increase its military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean in order to strengthen Greece's claim over the disputed maritime borders.
For regional experts, the move complicates the maritime conflict between the legitimate stakeholders — Turkey and Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) — who share land borders with the eastern Mediterranean, giving them access to its natural resources.
For Ankara-based security expert Ali Bakeer, France's hostile stance against Turkey stems from the problems the country's president Emmanuel Macron is facing back home.
“Macron’s internal problems should stay internal and not exported to the region in the name of leadership. With this involvement, Paris is threatening the unity of EU and NATO, and empowering Russia’s role in the region,” Bakeer told TRT World.
While Macron spoke a militaristic language with regards to the eastern Mediterranean dispute, he underlined the importance of dialogue, a ‘greater consultation’, between Greece and Turkey, and welcomed the mediation efforts of Germany.
Analyst Bakeer said France’s "unreasonable" stance on the dispute first undermined Germany's arbitration, and then escalated the deteriorating ties between Greece and Turkey, which adds complications and increases the possibility of a military confrontation between the competing parties.
France's decision came after Turkey issued a NAVTEX (navigational telex) on August 10 as part of the country’s hydrocarbon surveying activities. Ankara announced that its ship, Oruc Reis, would begin conducting fresh seismic research in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey’s decision did not come out of the blue, in fact . it came after Greece sidelined Turkey's diplomatic overtures and signed a controversial delimitation deal with Egypt.
Prior to Athens gravitating towards Cairo, Turkey had already announced to postpone its activities in the region as a sign of 'goodwill' and to give Germany-led dialogue efforts a chance to succeed.
Turkey saw the Egypt-Greece deal as a snub from Athens and they were quick to call it “null and void”. Soon after, Ankara authorised the Oruc Reis to continue its activities in an area that is within Turkey’s continental shelf. The ship will continue seismic activities in the Eastern Mediterranean along with the Cengiz Han and Ataman until August 23.
With Turkey asserting that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also has rights to the resources in the area, Ankara has several times contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Speaking to TRT World, Mesut Hakki Casin, a former Turkish military officer and a professor of international law at Istanbul's Yeditepe University, said Macron's foriegn policy decisions involving Turkey should not be misconstrued as a final stance of France and its people.
“It has never been a France and Turkey problem. It's just Macron who has problems with Turkey,” Casin said.
Invoking Macron's infamous statement of calling NATO an alliance that has suffered "brain death," Casin said the French president has taken several steps to weaken the transatlantic alliance, which has contributed to emboldening Russia both in Libya and in the Mediterranean.
“France is also responsible for the security of NATO in the eastern Mediterranean and the protection of NATO’s eastern front is Turkey’s responsibility. But it seems Paris undermines NATO’s security in the east by turning against its NATO ally, Turkey.”
Casin said the extent of Macron's anti-Turkey attitude can be measured by his previous attempts to provide Russia two aircraft carriers to undermine Turkey's air power, and if the US had not intervened, he would have succeeded in putting NATO at a disadvantage.
“According to International Law, sovereign states can realise drilling activities and the Oruc Reis belongs to Turkish state, its potential military exercises in the region hints targeting of the Oruc Reis and it would directly mean declaration of war against its NATO ally,” he added.
“The US is aware of the damages caused by France to NATO and Washington along with NATO must take action.”