Macron try­ing to play with the big boys and fail­ing mis­er­ably

Ankara and Paris have dif­fer­ent mo­ti­va­tions in Syria, an­a­lysts say, ar­gu­ing that while French Pres­i­dent Macron’s moves on Syria are at­tempts to over­come chal­lenges in do­mes­tic pol­i­tics, Tur­key works to es­tab­lish peace in Syria

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page - MEHMET ÇELİK – IS­TAN­BUL

TUR­KEY and France have dif­fer­ent agen­das re­gard­ing Syria, as Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron is in search of a heroic story abroad to counter the chal­lenges he faces in do­mes­tic pol­i­tics while Ankara has been uti­liz­ing diplo­matic and mil­i­tary en­ergy to es­tab­lish peace in the war-torn coun­try. On Sun­day, 40-yearold Macron, who is com­plet­ing his first year in of­fice, ap­peared on French tele­vi­sion in an in­ter­view with two ex­pe­ri­enced French jour­nal­ists.

“WITH these strikes and this in­ter­ven­tion, we sep­a­rated the Rus­sians and the Turks on this is­sue. ... The Turks con­demned the chem­i­cal strike and sup­ported the oper­a­tion that we con­ducted,” Macron told BFM TV, re­fer­ring to the U.S.led airstrikes on Syr­ian regime chem­i­cal weapons fa­cil­i­ties in re­sponse to the al­leged use of chem­i­cal weapons in the Da­m­as­cus sub­urbs of Eastern Ghouta and Douma on April 7.

Macron also said that he had con­vinced U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to change his Syria pol­icy and launch the airstrikes. “Ten days ago, Pres­i­dent Trump wanted the United States of Amer­ica to with­draw from Syria. We con­vinced him to re­main,” he said. Not long af­ter Macron’s re­marks, White House spokes­woman Sarah San­ders said in a state­ment quoted in the me­dia: “The U.S. mis­sion has not changed – the pres­i­dent has been clear that he wants U.S. forces to come home as quickly as pos­si­ble.” Macron’s claims about the Rus­sian-Tur­key split did not get a re­sponse from Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan or Prime Min­is­ter Bi­nali Yıldırım dur­ing their speeches yes­ter­day. How­ever, Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Bekir Boz­dağ and For­eign Min­is­ter Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu both ad­dressed Macron’s re­marks harshly.

“In its Syria pol­icy, Tur­key is not sid­ing with any­one nor against any- one,” Boz­dağ said dur­ing his visit to Qatar yes­ter­day. He added that both the U.S. sup­port to PKK af­fil­i­ated Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units (YPG) and Rus­sia’s sup­port to Bashar As­sad are prob­lem­atic for Ankara. Boz­dağ also said that Tur­key will come to­gether with any ac­tor that is in line with the poli­cies Ankara finds to be right for Syria’s fu­ture, which Turk­ish lead­ers and of­fi­cials have said are to es­tab­lish per­ma­nent piece in Syria, with­out As­sad and with­out sup­port­ing ter­ror­ist groups. Çavuşoğlu said that many of Ankara’s al­lies are “far from be­ing se­ri­ous, and they choose pop­ulism. … We ex­pected pres­i­den­tial state­ments.” Çavuşoğlu was speak­ing at a joint press con­fer­ence with NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Jens Stoltenberg yes­ter­day.

Çavuşoğlu also said that Tur­key’s ties with Rus­sia are too strong for Macron to break. A state­ment also came from Rus­sia that re­jected Macron’s claim. “No, these strikes did not split us. It’s no secret that the po­si­tions of Moscow and Ankara dif­fer on a num­ber of is­sues. At the same time, this does not pre­vent us from con­tin­u­ing to ex­change views, to con­tinue dis­cussing this dif­fer­ence in po­si­tions,” Krem­lin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said yes­ter­day.

Since the be­gin­ning of the Syr­ian civil war, Ankara has urged that As­sad must be ousted from power in Syria and a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion must pre­vail to bring the war and the killings of thou­sands of Syr­i­ans to an end. In ad­di­tion, Tur­key also ar­gues that all ter­ror­ist groups such as Daesh and the YPG must be elim­i­nated to se­cure Syria’s ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity and en­sure Tur­key’s na­tional se­cu­rity. Tur­key launched Oper­a­tion Euphrates Shield to clear Daesh from its bor­der on Aug. 24, 2016, and ran un­til March 2016. The Turk­ish mil­i­tary and Free Syr­ian Army (FSA) fac­tions also launched Oper­a­tion Olive Branch on Jan. 20 to elim­i­nate the YPG in north­west­ern Syria, as it also con­sti­tuted a na­tional se­cu­rity threat for Ankara.

Er­doğan yes­ter­day called for a new ini­tia­tive for peace in the world, one where coun­tries are no longer bombed with ran­dom jus­ti­fi­ca­tions.

“Let’s lay down a new foun­da­tion for peace in the world and let’s not let rain down bombs on these coun­tries at ran­dom, not al­low the pound­ing of bar­rel bombs,” Er­doğan said at an en­trepreneur­ship congress in Is­tan­bul. Turk­ish lead­er­ship has long ar­gued that po­lit­i­cal tran­si­tion must hap­pen in Syria for the hu­man­i­tar­ian tragedy and re­gional in­sta­bil­ity to come to an end. Tur­key has taken in nearly 4 mil­lion refugees from Syria, which has cre­ated a so­cial and eco­nomic bur­den for the coun­try. Ankara says that the re-es­tab­lish­ment of an in­clu­sive po­lit­i­cal or­der will en­able the safe re­turns of refugees to their homes and bring an end to refugees cross­ing into Euro­pean coun­tries. Ankara also ar­gues that West­ern sup­port for the YPG in Syria fur­ther com­pli­cates the sit­u­a­tion. Aside from U.S. mil­i­tary sup­port and wors­en­ing ties be­tween Ankara and Wash­ing­ton, Ankara also did not wel­come Macron’s re­cent meet­ing with se­nior YPG fig­ures at the El­y­see Palace in which he of­fered the group sup­port. Macron of­fer­ing to play a me­di­a­tor role be­tween the YPG and Ankara was harshly crit­i­cized by the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment, which said: “Tur­key does not ne­go­ti­ate with ter­ror­ists.”

Maxime Gauin, a French his­to­rian with par­tic­u­lar fo­cus on Tur­key, said that Macron has made a his­toric er­ror by sid­ing with the YPG. “If I had a sug­ges­tion to make to Em­manuel Macron, it would be give new guar­an­tees to Tur­key re­gard­ing the PKK such as a sys­tem­atic ban on demon­stra­tions in sup­port to this ter­ror­ist group and its Syr­ian branch and a new step in the im­prove­ment of the fight against the fund­ing net­works of the PKK in France,” Gauin said. Com­ment­ing on a pos­si­ble French-Turk­ish co­op­er­a­tion in Syria, Gauin said given “re­al­i­ties of ge­og­ra­phy, the legacy of his­tory and the ne­ces­sity for co­op­er­a­tion,” it would be an ef­fec­tive op­tion for France to strengthen diplo­matic ties with Ankara.

SYRIA MOVES AN EXIT STRAT­EGY AGAINST DO­MES­TIC PROB­LEMS

Some have in­ter­preted Macron’s re­cent moves in for­eign pol­icy as an exit strat­egy by the French pres­i­dent from the in­ter­nal po­lit­i­cal chaos he has been fac­ing at home.

Saadet Oruç, a colum­nist for Daily Sabah and an ad­vi­sor to Er­doğan, told Daily Sabah that Macron is fac­ing in­ter­nal dis­or­der in do­mes­tic pol­i­tics and so he is look­ing for an exit strat­egy. “Macron is show­ing a heroic stance by say­ing he con­vinced the U.S. in chang­ing pol­icy in Syria, but the White House said oth­er­wise.” Oruç also com­mented on Macron’s claims about a Rus­sian-Turk­ish split: “Macron takes one step for­ward, two steps back” in his diplo­matic moves. “Macron should make more re­spon­si­ble state­ments.” Re­spond­ing to a ques­tion about Ankara’s po­si­tion on Mar­con’s de­sire to be in­volved in Syria diplo­mat­i­cally, Oruç said: “When it comes to Syria pol­icy, Tur­key sets its agenda based on prin­ci­ples, not coun­tries.”

Dur­ing the in­ter­view, Macron said France wants to in­volve West­ern pow­ers, Rus­sia and Tur­key in a new diplo­matic ini­tia­tive for a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion in Syria. The French pres­i­dent, who is sched­uled to visit the U.S. next week, and Rus­sia next month, has also voiced his will­ing­ness to play a key me­di­a­tor role be­tween the U.S. and Rus­sia, who have come to a brink of mil­i­tary con­fronta­tion over the Syr­ian regime’s use of chem­i­cal weapons. Rus­sia and Iran are staunch back­ers of As­sad.

Jana Jab­bour, a re­search as­so­ciate at Sciences Po Paris and a pro­fes­sor at Saint Joseph Univer­sity in Beirut, said: “Macron is try­ing to di­vert pub­lic at­ten­tion from do­mes­tic pol­i­tics to for­eign pol­i­tics by seek­ing to play a role in the Syria cri­sis.”

Macron’s gov­ern­ment be­gan to im­ple­ment plans to tax re­tirees more and em­ploy­ees less, cut jobs in some hos­pi­tals, re­or­ga­nize the jus­tice sys­tem and ap­ply a new univer­sity ad­mis­sions sys­tem, all of which have prompted protests. Jab­bour added: “A grow­ing role for France in Syria is used as an exit strat­egy from do­mes­tic prob­lems and as an in­stru­ment to em­bel­lish the po­lit­i­cal out­come of Macron’s pres­i­dency af­ter one year in power.” Jab­bour also said that Macron has an at­tempt to re-es­tab­lish France’s rep­u­ta­tion on the in­ter­na­tional level, but he can only be suc­cess­ful in the in­ter­na­tional arena, as in the Syr­ian civil war, only if “he closely co­or­di­nates with Ankara, Moscow and Tehran and brings them on board.”

French Pres­i­dent Macron said on Sun­day that he had con­vinced U.S. Pres­i­dent Trump to stay in Syria, a claim the White House has re­jected.

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