Erdogan heads to France seeking EU thaw

03.01.2018

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday visits Paris for talks with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, seeking to start the New Year by warming relations with the European Union after a torrid 2017.

Macron will host Erdogan at the Elysee Palace with talks expected to range from Syria to trade ties, and the French side is also expected to sound concern over the human rights situation in Turkey.

But high on the agenda will be Turkey's relations with the EU, which Ankara has sought to join for the last 50 years in an epic membership saga that appeared to hit the buffers amid bitter rows in 2017.

The Turkish leader has been a frequent visitor to Russia, the Gulf and Africa over the last year but has been rarely sighted in Europe since the 15 July 2016 coup bid aimed at removing him from power.

The visit to France will be his first since the botched putsch. Over the last year – discounting G20 and NATO summits – Erdogan's only trips to EU member states have been to Poland and Greece.

Still absent from the presidential itinerary is a visit to Germany. Ankara endured its bitterest crisis in 2017 with Berlin, which was roundly critical of the crackdown that followed the failed coup and has left some 55,000 jailed.

While German Chancellor Angela Merkel has often talked tough on Turkey, Macron has however made clear the need to "avoid ruptures" with a country that is an "essential partner". (AFP)

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