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France and Turkey’s Feuding Over Africa

french flag against blue sky

The Republic of France and the Republic of Turkey have not gotten along in the last few years, with the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, calling the president of the fifth French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, ‘brain-dead’.

The big reason for this growing feuding and possibly rivalry is Turkey wishing to expand its influence in North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa at the expense of the French and repeated comments by President Erdoğan for the French to get out of Africa.

This is partly due to the chaos, and France lost influence in Francophone Africa, particularly in their former colonial territories such as Niger going through coup d’état and other actors such as the Russian Federation, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) being led by Nigeria all fighting that spanned the influence throughout the region.

The geopolitical analyst Peter Zeihen stated that if France loses influence in the African continent, it will be limited primarily to the European mainland due to the British in the 18th and 19th centuries operating policy of containment regarding French imperial power.

Turkey Map

Deterioration of Franco and Turkish Relations

France and Turkey have been feuding over Africa since the early 2010s due to Syria and Libya, where the French intervened with the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and supported forces against the regime in Syria led by Bashar al-Assad is a Syrian politician who is the current and 19th president of Syria since 17 July 2000.

The Arab Spring and the Syrian Civil War from 2011 to 2020, with the conflict still sporadically since the ceasefire was called in 2020, has destabilised Turkey’s southern border with refugees and a neighbour in turmoil.

Another reason for the deterioration of Turkish and French relations is that in 2014, France and other European and Western powers supported the Syrian Democratic Forces, including YPG, a Kurdish separatist group wishing for independence.

An independent Kurdistan would threaten the integrity of Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq, each with sizeable Kurdish populations with a strong desire to create a separate Kurdish nation.

With the French and others supporting the YPG, they have become a direct threat to the current territorial integrity of the Turkish Republic, which has existed since 1923.

This is a classic case of nations having interests, not friends. The Western political powers and the Turkish Republic clash over each other’s geopolitical interests in different regions.

From Turkey’s point of view, the French are supporting forces potentially destabilising the Turkish Republic and supporting foreign wars against dictatorships that destabilise Turkey’s geographical neighbours.

Regarding the Libyan conflict, the French and Russians supported General Khalifa Belqasim Haftar with Turkey, and the rest of the NATO alliance supported the Libyan national government of national accord.

The French different policies and its other Western allies, including Turkey, were because the French believed that a strong man in control of Libya would be far more effective and prevent the spread of Islamic terrorism to French Africa.

Which has proven quite prophetic with the spread of terrorist organisations within former African France.

brown map on map
Photo by Magda Ehlers on

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