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The Developing Rivalry Of France And Turkey

Updated: Nov 8

By: Roderyk Boykin

Over the last few months, an already tense relationship between Ankara and Paris has been on the rise. This is because of the heated geopolitical relationship between the two NATO-allies over resource disputes involving Cyprus and the recent terror attacks in France and their respective fallout.

Battling For Influence In The Mediterranean

The situation the two powers find themselves in now has a bit of history. With the mainstay being France’s opposition to general Turkish expansion in the Mediterranean, specifically Syria & Libya. We saw this situation almost develop into a conflict when France tried to inspect Turkish vessels to uphold an arms embargo against Libya.

Dispute Over Cyprus

Now, relations continue to worsen with the involvement of a usual source of controversy in the Mediterranean sea: Cyprus. Cyprus is a divided island with an enormous source of natural gas and maritime resources. The island itself comprises of the UN, the Greek-backed Republic of Cyprus, and the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, with Turkey being the only country to recognize the latter.

Greece and Turkey have clashed over Cyprus many times, most notably in 1974. Now France is getting involved. France has promised to boost its military presence in the region to help Greece and Cyprus secure their maritime resources. France is sending two fighter jets and one naval frigate.

Free Speech, Religion, And Terror Attacks

These instances don’t take into account the most recent point of tension between the two countries: religion. Following the Oct 22nd beheading of teacher Samuel Paty, who showed a caricature of the prophet Muhammed, President Macron vowed to stand against radical Islam and for free speech.

Erdogan responded in kind by saying that Macron is persecuting a religious minority and that he needs mental help. This comment directly led to France pulling its ambassador from Turkey, which prompted Erdogan to call for a boycott of French goods. France’s reaction to the insult towards Macron had the Arabic world calling France and its views on free speech hypocritical.

With both nations vying for influence and power, we see how tensions between France and Turkey have risen dramatically over these last few months. Combined with an already shaky geopolitical relationship, the return of past issues like Cyprus in addition to issues of terrorism and religion could lead France and Turkey on a direct collision course. If that is the case, it would devastate both Europe and the Middle East.


• Al Jazeera. “France to Boost Military Presence in Eastern Mediterranean.” France | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 13 Aug. 2020,

www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/8/13/france-to-boost-military-presence-in-eastern-mediterr anean.

• BBC. “Turkey-Greece Tensions Escalate over Turkish Med Drilling Plans.” BBC News, BBC, 25 Aug. 2020, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-53497741.

• “‘France, Cyprus, Greece and Others Are Lining up on the Anti-Turkish Side’-Rising Conflict in the Med.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper,

www.economist.com/podcasts/2020/08/24/france-cyprus-greece-and-others-are-lining-up on-the-anti-turkish-side-rising-conflict-in-the-med.

• Harees, Lukman. “Seeing through France's Double Standards and Hypocrisy.” Middle East Monitor, 31 Oct. 2020,

www.middleeastmonitor.com/20201031-seeing-through-frances-double-standards-and-hy pocrisy/.

• IWM. “What Caused The Division Of The Island Of Cyprus?” Imperial War Museums, www.iwm.org.uk/history/what-caused-the-division-of-the-island-of-cyprus.

• Soylu, Ragip. “Turkish Officials Believe France's Anger Is All about Losing Influence.” Middle East Eye,


• “The French-Turkish Spat That Could 'Widen the Civilizational Divide' | DW | 29.10.2020.” Google, Google,

www.google.ca/amp/s/amp.dw.com/en/the-french-turkish-spat-that-could-widen-the-civili zational-divide/a-55436645.

• U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State,

history.state.gov/countries/cyprus#:~:text=In 1983, a Turkish-controlled,to recognize the TRNC, however.

• Wallace, Danielle. “France Pulls Ambassador to Turkey after Erdogan Calls for Mental Health Check for Macron.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 25 Oct. 2020, www.foxnews.com/world/france-ambassador-turkey-erdogan-mental-health-macron-islam -muslims.

*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.


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