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France says EU must play bigger role in East Med

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France wants to see a bigger EU presence in the eastern Mediterranean to play a deciding role for stability in the region as tensions rise, French Ambassador Isabelle Dumont told the Cyprus News Agency.

She told CNA that the aim of the French military presence in the Mediterranean region is to de-escalate tensions involving Cyprus, Greece and Turkey.

Asked about possible EU sanctions against Turkey for its activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Ambassador said the French position has been clear over the past months.

“There are some tools that have been decided by the EU, depending on the evolution of the situation, and we should be using those tools depending on the situation.”

“Our vision on this issue is that the sanctions on any country have to be a tool, not an objective by itself. We are not aiming at putting sanctions.

What we want is to use all the tools possible to have the tensions decreased and international law being respected. This is the main objective.”

Dumont noted that in the case of tensions with Greece over energy rights, the dialogue has proved to change the situation a little bit.

“We have to show that we are firm, that we are here present on the spot, ready for dialogue repeating ourselves that the objective of France with our partners is to decrease tensions and to get stability.”

She said France’s upgraded presence in the region was to show that alliances matter.

“The role that France wants to play in the region is to de-escalate tensions. In order to de-escalate tension, we need to show presence.

We need to show that France and the EU is present, has a capacity in the region.”

French military naval presence in the Eastern and Central Mediterranean is also to make sure that the UN embargo on Libya is observed.

Cyprus and France have recently initiated a defence cooperation pact of mutual assistance and military training.

“Cyprus plays a very important role in its geographic position, but also as a place of stability.

For us, it is very important to be able to have access to Cyprus for the port calls of our frigates when they come in the area.

Now there are French frigates practically all the time in the area and this cooperation is quite essential to us.

On reports that France is seeking to establish a naval base in Cyprus, Dumont said that this is not exactly what is being discussed.

“We are having discussions on how we can enhance our cooperation, but we are not talking about a French naval base.

This is not what is on the table. The reason why I am not more specific is not because of any secret schemes.

It is just that we are in the middle of this discussion and how exactly we can enhance, make sure that we can continue having good access.”

Dumont is leaving Cyprus after a year to take up a post in Paris to work with President Emmanuel Macron.