Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday called on the Turks to boycott French goods as relations with NATO allies worsened over Paris’ harsh stance on radical Islam, while senior EU officials stirred up Erdogan’s remarks.
This comes after Erdogan’s claim on Saturday that French President Emmanuel Macron had a problem with Muslims and needed control of his mental health – claims that led France to recall its ambassador from Ankara.
“I urge all my citizens from here to never help French brands or buy them,” Erdogan said.
European leaders must put an end to Macron’s alleged “anti-Islam” agenda, Erdogan said in a speech at the start of a week of activities in Turkey to celebrate the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.
Turkey and France are both members of NATO’s military alliance, but have been at odds with issues including Syria and Libya, maritime jurisdiction in the eastern Mediterranean and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. France is the 10th largest source of imports to Turkey and the seventh largest market for Turkish exports, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute.
EU leaders were eager to express solidarity with France. In a statement posted on Twitter on Sunday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called Erdogan’s comments “unacceptable” and called on Turkey to “stop this dangerous spiral of confrontation”.
European Council President Charles Michel accused Turkey of using “provocations, unilateral actions in the Mediterranean” and now “insults”.
At a summit earlier this month, EU countries agreed to review Turkey’s behavior in December and threatened to impose sanctions if Erdogan’s “provocations” do not stop, a statement from the Council said.
EU spokesman Peter Stano said on Monday that he would not rule out an urgent meeting of EU ministers at an earlier stage following Erdogan’s recent comments.
“We clearly expect a change in action and statements from the Turkish side,” Stano told a news conference. He said there would be many discussions “to see if we continue to wait or take action sooner”.
Macron praises beheaded teacher as ‘completely’
In recent weeks, Macron has vowed to fight “Islamist separatism” and said it threatened to take over some Muslim communities in France.
The country has since been shaken and stabbed by a teacher Samuel Paty by an Islamist militant who avenges the use of cartoons by the Prophet Mohammad in a class on freedom of speech.
In the wake of Paty’s assassination of Chechen extremists, Macron promised that France would never abandon cartoons like the ones mentioned in 2015 as the cause of a brutally armed attack on Charlie Hebdo’s satirical magazine in which 12 people were murdered. Paty showed these pictures to her community class while emphasizing that students could choose not to look at them if offended.
Macron hailed Paty as a “hero” for representing the secular, free-thinking values of the French Republic, which include a long-cherished right to mock religion. France has a long tradition of caricatures taking on political and religious authorities – including Charlie Hebdo’s scorn of Catholicism.
“He was killed because Islamists want to take our future,” Macron said at a memorial service for Paty. “They never get it.”
Macron has defended the right to show the cartoons, and French media have republished them. In some places they were projected on buildings.
Several suspected Islamic radicals have been arrested in dozens of raids since the assassination, and approx. 50 organizations with alleged links to such individuals are earmarked for government closure. In recent years, France has been forced to take a hard look at its core values, which are perceived by many as threatened by Islam after a series of jihadist attacks that have killed more than 240 people since 2015.
( Jowharwith AFP and REUTERS)