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The Importance of France's Support

Αssociated Press

Ο πρωθυπουργός Κυριάκος Μητσοτάκης και ο Πρόεδρος της Γαλλίας Emmanuel Macron στο Παρίσι στις 29 Ιανουαρίου 2020. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Are we on the verge of eliminating the possibility of a military conflict between Greece and Turkey and closer to the commencement of negotiations between these two nations?

The answer seems to be yes.

Indeed, there have been indications that we are moving in this direction. And, this comes as a stark difference compared to previous days.

Greece will now negotiate having secured the backing of France, and therefore, at least the indirect support of the EU. Additionally, an American helicopter carrier will soon arrive in Greece - a modest but not accidental action of the Pentagon.

It should not be considered under any circumstances that France will fight against Turkey for the sake of Greece. However, its support strengthens Greece's negotiating position.

A day after Mitsotakis' address to the nation, as well as Macron's statement of support for Greece, the Turkish President found the necessary opening he was looking for:

"We have no ambitions for anyone's rights," he said, adding, "the way to solve the problems in the Eastern Mediterranean is through dialogue and talks. If common sense prevails, we can find a formula that we can both win with – win-win – that protects the rights of both sides."

Of course what this 'win-win' means requires a longer conversation.

Nonetheless, Erdogan’s statement was preceded by Macron's tweet:

“The situation in the eastern Mediterranean is worrying. Turkey’s unilateral decisions on oil exploration are causing tensions. These must end in order to allow a peaceful dialogue between neighboring countries and allies within NATO. I have decided to temporarily strengthen the French military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean in the coming days, in cooperation with European partners including Greece.”

In essence, Macron repeated Mitsotakis' statement: withdraw your ships in order to start the dialogue.

Of course, Macron is not moved (only) by philhellenic feelings.

The interests of his country coincide with the interests of Greece in this case.

France, the EU's most powerful military by far, cannot allow the undisguised ambitions of Turkey to blackmail the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean and radically upset the balance of power in the region.

It has also had significant interests in the region for centuries, from Libya to Lebanon.

France's relations with Turkey have been bad for several years.

However, they were severely tested when a Turkish warship recently collided with a French frigate off the coast of Libya.

Macron then spoke of "criminal responsibility" for Turkey.

Now he is sending quite strong forces to the area, apparently determined not to allow that to happen again.

So, the intervention of France, as well as the obvious support of Israel to Greece, but also the arrival of an American helicopter carrier, might soon create the conditions for the elimination - at least for the time being - of the pursuit of a military solution by Turkey, and the start of talks, which has always been the goal of Ankara.

Provided, as Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated in his speech, that these will not be taking place with a gun pointed at Greece’s head.