War of words between Erdogan and Macron ahead of the NATO summit

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attacked his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Friday for criticizing Turkish military intervention in Syria, pointing out that Mr Elysee is in a “brain death”, borrowing the phrase Macron recently used to describe NATO.

Erdogan took advantage of a televised speech to attack Macron just days before they joined other NATO leaders to participate in a summit in Britain coinciding with the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the alliance.

“I am going to French President Emmanuel Macron, and I will repeat that to him at the NATO summit,” Erdogan said. “First of all, you have to examine your own brain death. You just like that in the case of a brain death.”

Erdogan quoted his French counterpart’s recent comments that NATO was suffering from a “brain death” due to the lack of strategic cooperation among its members.

“When it comes to bragging, you master it. But when you have to pay your money to NATO, it is different. You are just a beginner,” the Turkish president told Macron.

In response to Erdogan’s comments, the French government announced that it would summon the Turkish ambassador to France to discuss the issue, the second summons in two months.

The French presidency said “this is not a statement, it is insults,” adding “the ambassador will be summoned to the ministry in order to explain it.”

Erdogan appears to be particularly alarmed by Macron’s criticism of Turkey’s cross-border military operation in October against Western-backed Kurdish fighters in the battle against ISIS in Syria.

The Turkish operation killed dozens of civilians, mostly from the Kurdish side, while hundreds of thousands were forced to flee.

Macron said at a joint press conference Thursday with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Paris that he understood the security concerns “of our ally Turkey, which has been subjected to several attacks on its territory.”

But he added: “On the one hand you cannot say that we are allies and ask for solidarity in this regard, and on the other hand to put your allies in front of the de facto military operation that jeopardizes the actions of the anti-ISIL coalition of NATO.”

In response, the 64-year-old Turkish president considered Macron, 41, “inexperienced.”

“The meaning of fighting terrorism is not known. That is why the yellow vest movement has invaded France,” he said, referring to anti-Macron demonstrators since last year.

Erdogan pointed out that Ankara has the right to intervene in Syria because there are common borders between the two countries.

“Were you in Syria? Waved as much as you wanted, in the end you will recognize the validity of our fight against terrorism,” he told Macron.

– “Dick yell” –

The war of words between the two sides has raised the level of tension between NATO members, which may hang over the summit next week.

Leaders of member states are gearing up for a debate on spending and how to deal with Russia, a huge test of NATO’s unity.

Macron unleashed the start of the divisions by suggesting in an interview with The Economist on 7 January that the alliance was in a “brain death”.

As evidence of his assessment, he referred to US President Donald Trump’s sudden decision to withdraw his forces from northern Syria and the subsequent Turkish military operation against the YPG, which Ankara considers “terrorist”.

A senior US official said Friday that Macron “is still trying to figure out what he wants” from NATO.

Macron called for shifting priorities from a focus on major powers such as Russia and China to countering terrorism, which he saw as a “common enemy.”

But the US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Trump would stress at the NATO summit that China and Russia remain among the bloc’s biggest challenges, saying “China above all.”

The official said it was “not surprising” that many NATO members were concerned about “Russia’s continuing indifference to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbors.”

The source declined to comment on what he called “retaliation” between the French and Turkish presidents, while stressing the “mutual respect” between Macron and Trump.

Ankara’s first Friday attack on Macron was not a response to his criticism. In October, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu likened him to “yell yell” after the French president criticized Ankara’s human rights record in a speech to the Council of Europe.

In this context, the researcher at the French Institute for International Affairs and Strategy Didier Pelion that the deterioration of relations between France and Turkey is “almost as serious as the same recorded during the (former French President Nicolas) Sarkozy.”

Sarkozy has infuriated Turkey by opposing its ambitions to join the European Union.


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