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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that a strong partnership between Turkey and France was vital for world peace as he headed on a key visit to France on Friday.

Erdogan’s one-day visit to Paris to meet French President Emmanuel Macron is his most significant trip to a European Union state for bilateral talks since the failed 2016 coup bid in Turkey, which led to a hugely controversial mass crackdown.

“I believe that cooperation between Turkey and France is of vital importance for regional and international peace,” Erdogan told reporters at Istanbul Ataturk airport before boarding his plane.

“With Macron, we are in close contact on many issues,” the president said.

“I care a lot about this visit on the basis of a comprehensive and strong partnership.”

The lunch and talks at the Elysee Palace are expected to take in Syria and EU-Turkey relations, but Macron is also expected to voice concern over Erdogan’s post-coup purges.

Also Read: Turkey Frees 8 Human Rights Activists, Pending Outcome of Terror Trial

In an interview with France’s LCI television on Thursday, Erdogan said he had got off to a “very good start” with France’s new leader.

But in an interview with Le Point magazine in August, Macron listed “having to talk to Erdogan every 10 days” as one of the drawbacks of the job.

The invitation to Erdogan, who has presided over the arrest of tens of thousands of officials, academics, journalists and activists, has drawn criticism on the French left.

The Socialist mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, said she was “concerned” about the state of “human rights and local democracy in Turkey”.

The French presidency has however insisted on the need to “maintain dialogue” with Ankara without “covering up differences of views.”

Macron and Erdogan already met at a NATO summit in Brussels and at the UN General Assembly in New York in September, and held telephone talks leading to the release of two French journalists held in Turkey. Read More …