Tensions between France and Turkey turned personal as, Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in an address on Friday that French President Emmanuel Macron was mentally unbalanced and required “treatment.” Additionally, Erdogan issued a challenge to the US, daring them to sanction his country.
Erdogan Accuses Macron of Having a “Problem With Muslims”
“What else can one say about a head of state who treats millions of members from different faith groups this way: first of all, have a mental check,” Erdogan said. “What’s the problem of the individual called Macron with Islam and with the Muslims?”
“Macron needs mental treatment,” Erdoğan said. “You are constantly picking on Erdoğan. This will not earn you anything. There will be elections [in France] … We will see your fate. I don’t think he has a long way to go. Why? He has not achieved anything for France and he should do for himself.”
Turkey’s communications chief Fahrettin Altun doubled-down on his president’s statements, comparing France’s treatment of Muslims to the treatment of the Jews.
“This is about intimidating Muslims and reminding them that they are welcome to continue to make Europe’s economy work, but that they will never be a part of it, he added. He described this attitude towards Muslims as “eerily familiar,” resembling “the demonization of European Jews in the 1920s”.
Erdogan intensified his remarks by calling for a boycott of French products with several Arab trade associations answering this call.
A Speech, Beheading, and US Sanctions
The conflict arose earlier this month over a speech in which Macron described Islam as “a religion that is in crisis today all over the world,” proposing legislation to fight “Islamist separatism.” The goal, said the president, is “to build an Islam in France that can be compatible with the Enlightenment.” A few weeks later, an 18-year-old Muslim refugee murdered Samuel Paty, a French high-school teacher, by beheading.
Turkey and France are both members of the NATO military alliance but have been at odds over issues including Syria and Libya, maritime jurisdiction in the eastern Mediterranean. But apparently, angering only one NATO ally was not enough and on Saturday, Erdogan issued a challenge to the US, daring them to sanction his country.
“Whatever your sanctions are, don’t be late,” Erdogan said at his Justice and Development Party meeting in Kayseri. His Turkish ire was due to American warnings not to get involved in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces. Turkey supports Azerbaijan but many are wary, remembering how Turkey perpetrated a genocide against the Christian Armenian at the beginning of the 20th century.
Turkey is already facing a boycott from Saudi Arabia that is the culmination of three years of conflict over Erdogan’s support for Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood.
He went on to rail against the US disapproval of his acquiring military hardware from Russia. When Turkey made a deal to purchase the advanced S-400 air defense system, the US canceled a deal for Turkey to purchase F-35 stealth fighters that the Russian system was designed to combat.
“We stepped in for the F-35, you threatened us,” Erdogan told a televised ruling party congress in the eastern city of Malatya. “You said, ‘Send the S-400s back to Russia.’ We are not a tribal state. We are Turkey.”
After berating the US, Erdogan repeated his comments about the French president’s mental health.
“The person in charge of France has lost his way,” Erdogan said. “He goes on about Erdogan while in bed and while awake. Look at yourself first and where you’re going. I said yesterday in Kayseri, he is a case and he really must be examined.”
The French government responded by recalling its ambassador to Ankara for an “evaluation of the ongoing situation,” which they described as a “rare move.”