President François Hollande is on the first official French visit to Turkey in 22 years.
French President François Hollande arrived in Turkey today on a landmark visit; the first official visit in 22 years from a French President. The visit aims to recover ties between the two nations after bilateral ties regressed under former French president Nicolas Sarkozy's opposition to Turkey's EU membership. Both sides see the visit as an attempt to gain new momentum for diplomatic relations and contribute to economic cooperation.
Ankara's agenda during Hollande's visit will focus on promoting political and economic relations between the two countries, which have been on the up since Hollande's election as president. French corporate interest in major Turkish projects in the health, agricultural, infrastructure, and energy sectors will also be discussed, as Paris continues to encourage Turkish investment in France.
President Hollande is scheduled to meet both Prime Minister Erdoğan and President Abdullah Gül. They will discuss the Geneva II peace talks on the Syrian war, amongst other topics. Talks in Ankara are expected to focus on opening EU accession chapters 17, 22 and 23; the nuclear power plant to be built on Turkey's Black Sea coast; the Armenian issue; and Turkey's position on the Syrian civil war. Tensions rose between Turkey and France after French lawmakers attempted to enact a law criminalizing the denial of the 1915 Armenian killings, which some term the Armenian Genocide.
When he came into power in 2012, Hollande promised to remove the points of contention that Sarkozy had maintained and resume talks between Turkey and the EU. Following those steps, Chapter 22 on regional policies was opened in Nov. 2013 after a three-year interim period. Yet, it is still unclear whether Hollande's attempts to recover the frayed ties will convince Turkey.
Following talks in Ankara, Hollande will head to Istanbul to attend an economic forum at Galatasaray University together with President Abdullah Gül. The current rector of Galatasaray University, Professor Ethem Tolga, was a student at the time of former French president Charles de Gaulle's visit to Galatasaray High School. Emphasizing the importance of the visit, Tolga said, "We are glad that Hollande is striving to improve bilateral relations between Turkey and France, especially in terms of Turkey's EU membership and integration."
Presidents Gül and Hollande are scheduled to attend the Turkish-French Business Forum in Istanbul on Tuesday to sign agreements to strengthen bilateral relations, with a focus on economic cooperation.
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