Sarkozy to pay landmark official visit to Turkey next month
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner is due to arrive in Ankara today to lay the groundwork for French President Nicolas Sarkozy's official visit to Turkey set for Nov. 13. Visiting Paris in April to attend the conclusion of Turkish Season in France, an eight-month series of activities to make Turkey and Turkish culture better known among the French public, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan invited Sarkozy to visit Turkey. The visit by Sarkozy, known for his staunch opposition to Turkey's EU membership bid, will mark an important milestone in relations between the two countries, breaking an 18-year hiatus in head of state-level visits from France to Turkey. The last such visit was then French President Francois Mitterand's official visit to Turkey in 1992. France is set to take over the term presidency of G-20, and Sarkozy's Turkey visit will take place as part of a tour of G-20 countries. During his one-day stay in Ankara, Kouchner and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu will jointly open the new campus of the French Charles de Gaulle high school. Kouchner will also visit the French Culture Institute. Turkey's EU accession process, which has slowed due to French and German opposition, and improving anti-terror cooperation between the two countries are expected to top Kouchner's talks with Davutoglu, who is expected to express Turkey's displeasure with political obstacles being put before Turkey's EU accession. Turkey is also urging France to do more to cut finances to the terrorist PKK. The foreign ministers are also expected to exchange views on an EU decision to review Turkey's relations with the Greek Cypriots, which is to be reflected in the EU Commission's fall progress report on Turkey. A number of issues of common concern such as Iran's nuclear program, the Middle East peace process, stalled peace talks between Syrian and Israel, the Cyprus issue, and the Nagorno-Karabakh issue are also expected to be discussed. Turkish-mediated peace talks between Syria and Israel came to a halt due to Israel's onslaught on Gaza in late 2008-early 2009. France wants to play a more active role in the Middle East, and to mediate talks between Tel Aviv and Damascus, but Syria has repeatedly said it wants to see Turkey mediate any talks with Israel.