PM: Italy & Turkey are the ‘big dogs’ in the Mediterranean

The Italian premier said Wednesday that Italy and Turkey are the two main players in the Mediterranean.

Giorgia Meloni’s remarks came after the G-20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, where she held a news conference evaluating the summit and her contacts.

Noting that the focus was Mediterranean countries during last week’s United Nations climate summit, COP27, which she attended in Egypt’s seaside resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Meloni said: “As part of the projection on Mediterranean countries, we had a meeting here, for example, with Turkish President (Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan.”

“Italy and Türkiye are historically the two main players in the Mediterranean. It is important that the two nations talk to each other in this way, for example, about the energy crisis, for example, about the migration crisis,” she said.

Erdoğan met with Italian Prime Minister Meloni for the first time after she became Italy’s first female prime minister as her right-wing coalition emerged victorious in the general elections on Sept. 25.

Also, France on Wednesday voiced solidarity with Ukraine but said there is a need to “reopen the negotiations” toward a permanent peace, while also praising Türkiye’s role in urging both sides to talk.

Speaking at a press conference at the end of the G-20 summit in Indonesia, French President Emmanuel Macron said he had discussed the matter of Ukraine and Russia returning to the negotiating table with the United States, Britain and Germany as well as with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Turkish President Erdoğan and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the summit in Bali.

“President Erdoğan is playing a useful role in this respect,” he said.

Türkiye has been internationally praised for its policy of balance toward Russia amid the Ukraine war, allowing it to broker such breakthroughs as this summer’s Black Sea grain corridor deal and a prisoner transfer.

Recent statements by Russian and Ukrainian leaders have suggested a possible willingness to engage in talks, though Kyiv’s preconditions seem to rule them out for now.

Türkiye has long pushed for a cease-fire and a negotiated settlement to the conflict, which began in late February.

Saying that the war in Ukraine is triggering food crises and destabilizing the entire world, Macron stressed the need to provide fertilizers to the neediest countries and those in Africa.

“We are working to increase capacity for fertilizers production in Africa,” Macron said, adding that most African countries are also deeply concerned about the cost of energy.

He emphasized the need to scale up financing for African states, saying they are more “fragile financially.”

Erdoğan and Macron also held a closed-door meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit, where they also discussed bilateral relations and regional developments.

Erdoğan said that the grain corridor started to function again in early November after Türkiye’s intensive efforts, helping convince Russia to rejoin the deal after it exited on Oct. 29, the Turkish Presidency’s Directorate of Communications said in a statement.

This July, Türkiye, the United Nations, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement in Istanbul to resume grain exports from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports, which had paused after Russia launched a war on its neighbor in February.

The parties were negotiating a possible extension and expansion beyond its planned expiration on Saturday, Nov. 19, with Erdoğan saying Ankara is determined to get Russian grain and fertilizers to less-developed countries.

Developing cooperation between Ankara and Paris in the defense and energy sectors as well as in trade is in the common interest, Erdoğan said.

Later on Twitter, Macron said that the war in Ukraine raises the risk of global famine.

“Türkiye and France will continue to work to ensure that exports continue unhindered,” he added.