Turkey’s place as a regional power cannot be denied as to its importance in the region’s stability and prosperity is “too obvious to overlook,” according to French historian and political scientist Maxime Gauin.

This was one of many observations proffered by Gauin, a senior researcher at the Center for Eurasian Studies (AVIM) in Turkey’s capital Ankara, in an interview with Anadolu Agency on Monday.

His research focuses on contemporary aspects of situation in Armenia and Turkish-French relations.

He completed his undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Bordeaux and Paris before earning his doctorate in history from Ankara’s Middle East Technical University in 2020.

He has published articles in various academic journals, including the European Journal of International Law, the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, and the International Review of Turkish Studies.

He also contributes to various leading dailies such as Hurriyet Daily News, Daily Sabah, Cumhuriyet, Haaretz, and The Jerusalem Post.

Excerpts of Gauin’s conversation with Anadolu Agency published below give an insight into topics currently dominating international politics; from the recent coup attempt in Armenia to the continuing power struggle in the Eastern Mediterranean, and the challenges facing Turkey and France as they look to patch relations.

Anadolu Agency (AA): We have recently seen a coup attempt against Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Is this a case of public backlash or a power play that involves players such as the Armenian elite, diaspora, and Russia?

Maxime Gauin (MG): Pashinyan came to power in 2018 after two decades of what is seen as corrupt and failed governance by a pro-Russia elite that maintained intertwined relations with the Armenian diaspora, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation [Dashnaks], and the ethnic Armenian elites in Upper Karabakh.

A majority of Armenian people are frustrated and angry with Pashinyan because of the humiliating defeat to Azerbaijan in Upper Karabakh, which led to Armenia losing control of most of the territory it had occupied for nearly three decades.

However, a large segment of Armenian society still believes that Pashinyan is the best available option, a view also shared by Azerbaijan and its main ally, Turkey.

For Baku, the most important factor is that Pashinyan has seen the combined strength of Azerbaijan and Turkey, so he will not risk a new war.

As for Turkey, it believes that Armenia can be part of regional transportation and commercial networks if Pashinyan pursues a stable and peaceful foreign policy.

This has been stressed by the leaders of both Azerbaijan and Turkey, who say it could give Armenia, a country that has been mired in poverty and seen a constant exodus of people since independence, a shot at prosperity.

AA: Moving away from the Caucasus, we see that Greece is working with some non-regional actors to form an alliance that aims to isolate Turkey in the region. How feasible and sustainable could such efforts prove to be?

MG: I would like to be bluntly honest here.

Turkey and Israel are the two major powers of the Eastern Mediterranean; any country with concerns and interests in the region needs to consider this fact.

Syria is already in ruins and not likely to be what it used to be before the civil war. Lebanon is a failed state, and Egypt is heavily dependent on aid from the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

UAE, a non-regional power pretending to be a regional power, has had to stop its anti-Turkey campaign after realizing that it cannot be a match for Ankara.

So, who does that leave behind? Turkey and Israel.

You may be inclined to ask whether Greece could be seen as a significant player in the region.

And my answer, without needing to think much, would be a big no.

Greece is a country that is punching above its weight. It is a country without a real economy; it has no manufacturing capacity and no technology or defense industries. It remains at the mercy of European taxpayers who are already tired of it.

On the other hand, the Turkish economy, which is not seeing its best days at the moment, still produces and exports.

And not just textiles, garments, and raw materials; Turkey also has a promising IT and defense industry.

This is exactly why wiser and farseeing decision-makers in the West and Israel will always prefer Turkey over Greece.

The same goes for France, despite the significant problems that have blighted its relations with Turkey.

In my view, French support for Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean had mostly to do with selling Rafale aircraft and frigates.

Of course, the anti-Turkish campaign in the West funded and organized by the UAE has also played a role.

Similarly, Turkey’s other enemies, such as the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) and the Armenian diaspora, did their best to sabotage Turkish-French relations.

Still, though, French decision-makers and industrialists acknowledge Turkey’s value as a trade and strategic partner; this is clearly proven by the sheer volume of French investments in Turkey.

All in all, Turkey’s importance in the region’s stability and prosperity is too obvious to overlook.

AA: Staying on the topic of Turkish-French relations, could you share your perspective on how the two countries can improve bilateral ties?

MG: Turkey should make an effort to reach out to the French people.

The French public is exposed to a lot of anti-Turkish propaganda, and since they do not have any other connection to Turkey, they tend to believe what they hear.

I know Turkey has been fighting the Daesh/ISIS terror group. I know Turkey’s war against PKK/YPG terror group is a just cause and I also support Turkey’s stance on the Armenian issue.

But that is just me, a French scholar living in Turkey among Turkish people.

We cannot expect the same from the common person on the streets of France.

To this end, through its French service, Anadolu Agency is playing an important role in filling a significant gap.

I have seen and appreciate how your French service’s quality and content have improved just in the past year.

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