President Emmanuel Macron accused Russia and Turkey of trying to promote anti-French sentiment in Africa by funding people who whip up aversion to France in the media, in an interview published on Friday.
“We must not be naive on this subject: many of those who speak, who make videos, who are present in the French-speaking media are funded by Russia or Turkey,” he told the newspaper Jeune Afrique, accusing Moscow and Ankara of trying. to play on post-colonial resentment. “
Macron also said that Turkey contributed to misunderstandings about its defense of the right to caricature in the wake of the beheading outside Paris by a teacher who had shown his class cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
“When I decided to attack radical Islam … my words were distorted. By the Muslim Brotherhood – quite broadly – but also by Turkey, which has the ability to influence a lot of public opinion, including in sub-Saharan Africa,” he said. .
He reiterated a position that has caused enormous controversy in France and beyond in recent months, adding: “I am not attacking Islam, I am attacking Islamist terrorism.”
Tensions between France and Turkey have risen to new levels over a series of disputes in recent months, including Syria, Libya, the eastern Mediterranean and now France’s action against radical Islam.
France has called for a complete reassessment of the European Union’s relations with Turkey, which under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in recent years has significantly built up its presence and influence in Africa.
Russia has also played an increasingly active role in Africa, with analysts pointing to the presence in several countries of the pro-Kremlin mercenary group Wagner.
‘We do not talk to terrorists’
In an extensive interview, Macron also rules out negotiating with jihadist groups in the Sahel region of Africa, where France has thousands of strong forces deployed.
“We are not talking to terrorists. We are fighting,” Macron said, as debates intensified in France and Africa over the long-term strategy for its Barkhane force.
He said France could talk to various political and other groups, but not terrorist units “that continue to kill civilians and soldiers, including our soldiers.”
And Macron accused Guinea’s president Alpha Conde of holding a referendum on constitutional changes “just to retain power”, adding that the situation in the country was “serious” after the post-election unrest.
“That’s why I’m still not sent him a congratulatory letter,” Macron said.
Macron added that he hoped to visit Rwanda in 2021 despite continued tensions with the country and its president Paul Kagame during the 1994 genocide.