Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that 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 involved in a series of disputes with France and its EU partners, from tensions in the eastern Mediterranean to the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The spit has risen to new levels in recent months as France has moved to crack down on Islamist extremism after several attacks on its territory.
“Macron is a problem for France. With Macron, France is going through a very, very dangerous period. I hope that France will get rid of Macron problems as soon as possible,” Erdogan 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 broke out in France in 2018.
“Yellow vests can later turn into red vests,” Erdogan said without elaborating.
The Turkish leader has repeatedly suggested that Macron be given “mental controls” and called on the Turkish people to boycott French-labeled products.
Erdogan’s diatrib came as the European Union considered imposing sanctions on Turkey at its summit on 10 December, largely due to its closure with EU member Greece in the eastern Mediterranean.
Diplomats have said that Paris is pushing for such sanctions against Ankara, although some key EU members – especially Germany – are more cautious and want a diplomatic strategy.
“We are ready to use the means at our disposal,” said Charles Michel, head of the European Council, expressing concern at Ankara’s “unilateral actions” and “hostile rhetoric”.
In a television interview on Friday, Macron seemed reluctant to be drawn into a new round of insults with Erdogan.
“I believe in respect … I believe that invective between political leaders is not a good method,” Macron said.
“Give Marseille to Armenians”
Turkey and France are also at odds with Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan populated by ethnic Armenians who broke away from Baku’s control in the 1990s after the Soviet war.
New fighting broke out in September, leaving several thousand people dead until a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement was sealed last month.
Turkey is a loyal ally of Azerbaijan and Macron – whose country has a large Armenian community – has repeatedly accused Ankara of sending Syrian militias to fight for Baku.
Last month, the French Senate adopted a non-binding resolution calling on France to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state.
“You are a mediator, but on the other hand, you have adopted a resolution in your parliament … on a region in which you are to mediate,” Erdogan added.
France, along with Russia and the United States, is co-chairing the Minsk group, which has been in talks to find a solution to the conflict for decades but has failed to reach a lasting agreement.
Erdogan also reiterated comments from Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev that France would allow the port city of Marseille in the Mediterranean – home to one of France’s largest Armenian communities – to Armenia if it wanted to establish a state for the Armenians in Karabakh.
“I give the same advice: if they are so anxious, they should give Marseille to Armenians,” Erdogan said.
In September, Macron’s comments on the simmering eastern Mediterranean, which has pitted Turkey against Greece and the rest of the EU, drew anchor anger.
“The people of Turkey, who are an amazing people, deserve something different,” Macron said in comments made by Ankara when he interfered in domestic politics.
Macron told Al-Jazeera in October that France wanted things to “calm down” but it was first and foremost important that “the Turkish president respects France, respects the European Union, respects its values, does not tell lies and does not speak insults “.