ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday he hoped France would get rid of Emmanuel Macron as soon as possible, the latest salvo in an escalating war of words between the two leaders.
Turkey is embroiled in a series of disputes with France and its EU partners, from tensions in the eastern Mediterranean to the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The spat has risen to new levels in recent months as France has moved to crack down on extremism after several attacks on its soil.
“Macron is trouble for France. With Macron, France is passing through a very, very dangerous period. I hope that France will get rid of Macron trouble as soon as possible,” the president told reporters after Friday prayers in Istanbul.
He said the French should dump their leader “otherwise they will not be able to get rid of yellow vests”, referring to the protest movement that erupted in France in 2018.
“Yellow vests could later turn into red vests,” Erdogan said, without elaborating.
The Turkish leader has repeatedly suggested that Macron get “mental checks” and urged the Turkish people to boycott French-labelled products.
Turkey and France are also at odds over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan populated by ethnic Armenians that broke away from Baku’s control in a 1990s post-Soviet war.
Fresh fighting broke out in September, leaving several thousand people dead, until a Russian-brokered ceasefire deal was sealed last month.
Turkey is a staunch ally of Azerbaijan.
France along with Russia and the United States co-chairs the Minsk Group, which has led talks seeking a solution to the conflict for decades but has failed to reach a lasting agreement.
Last month, the French Senate adopted a non-binding resolution calling on France to recognise Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state.
“Why? You are a mediator but on the other side, you have passed a resolution in your parliament... about a region on which you are supposed to be a mediator,” Erdogan charged.
He also repeated comments by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev that France should concede the Mediterranean port city of Marseille to Armenia if it wanted to establish a state for the Armenians of Karabakh.
“I am giving the same advice: if they are so keen, they should give Marseille to Armenians,” Erdogan said.
In September, Macron’s comments on the simmering eastern Mediterranean standoff, which has pitted Turkey against Greece and the rest of the EU, drew Ankara’s wrath.
“The people of Turkey, who are a great people, deserve something else,” Macron said while discussing Erdogan’s approach to the crisis.
France backs Greek claims in the row over the contested energy-rich waters, with Athens seeking EU sanctions to punish Ankara.
EU members will decide at a summit on December 10 whether to begin the process of applying sanctions against Turkey although many states are not convinced.
“Turkey has a bellicose attitude towards its Nato allies,” Macron told Al-Jazeera in October, condemning Turkey’s behaviour in Syria, Libya and the Mediterranean.
He said France’s wish was that things “calm down” but for this to happen, it is essential that the “Turkish president respects France, respects the European Union, respects its values, does not tell lies and does not utter insults”.
Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2020