French authorities two days ago protested vehemently over the accusation that a Turkish navy vessel harassed a French ship on a “NATO mission.” This was the latest incident that has occurred in the Eastern Mediterranean between the Turkish and French navies.
We should go back and review World War I and the Battle of Gallipoli before seeing these countries in such a conflictual situation. That battle, for a short time, severed very deep French-Ottoman ties. After the war, despite the abolition of Turkish Capitulations, which deprived France of very important revenue, Turkish-French relations remained lively. The fact that the new Turkish Republic was designed on a pure French, republican, unitary and laicist model certainly played a role.
Turkey has been one of the very few countries to support an “Algérie Française” at the United Nations, not that this had an important effect on bilateral relations, but that does give an idea about the intrinsic ties between the diplomatic staff of both countries. The peak in relations was reached during then-President de Gaulle’s five-day visit in 1968, which encompassed the capital Ankara and Istanbul and saw a real rapprochement between Turkey and France.
In Ankara, Gen. de Gaulle declared to former President İsmet İnönü, then-leader of the opposition, that there were two communities on the island of Cyprus and it would, therefore, be advisable to have a frontier dividing them, like in Thrace. This important stance by France was later reversed when the young and brilliant French President Giscard d’Estaing in 1974 took the defining lead of countries condemning the Turkish intervention in Cyprus after a coup d’etat fomented by the Greek military junta in power in Athens.