French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Paris on Friday, hoping to renew his dialogue with Europe, despite strong criticism of the human rights situation in his country.
The two leaders are to have a face-to-face meeting before a lunch followed by a joint statement in front of the press.
The visit is the most important for the Turkish president to an EU country since the failed putsch of 2016. More than 140,000 people have been fired or suspended and more than 55,000 arrested, having been accused of “terrorist” propaganda or collusion with the US-based preacher Fethullah Gülen whom Ankara blames for the coup attempt.
The two leaders promised a frank and uncompromising dialogue on human rights. Emmanuel Macron said he would discuss with his guest “the situation of imprisoned journalists” in Turkey.
Amnesty International, whose founding member in Turkey, Taner Kilic, has been jailed, said Macron should “strongly remind (Erdogan) that human rights defenders are not terrorists.
Beyond the contentious issues, the two presidents want to discuss Syria, on which they have certain points of convergence, and Turkey’s stalled EU membership talks.
“I think cooperation between France and Turkey is of vital importance for regional and global peace,” Erdogan said before leaving for Paris.
President Erdogan also plans to relaunch Turkeys relations with Europe, which have been severely damaged since he began his crack down on journalists, academics and human rights activists.
Erdogan’s government also had a number of verbal clashes with Europe during Turkey’s referendum on granting the president more powers. The German and Dutch governments refused Turkish politicians the right to hold rallies in their countries, leading Erdogan to accuse German Chancellor Angela Merkel of employing “Nazi measures.”
Erdogan pointed to common positions on the status of Jerusalem, as well as in Iraq and Libya, as areas in which France and Turkey have been brought closer together.