France said on Saturday it would recall its ambassador to Turkey for advice following a suggestion by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that French opponent Emmanuel Macron needed a psychiatric examination, condemning Paris as unacceptable.
France and its NATO allies are at odds over a number of issues, including maritime rights in the eastern Mediterranean, Libya and Syria, and the escalating conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.
But Ankara is now particularly outraged by Mr Macron’s campaign to defend France’s secular values against radical Islam, and this month’s debate that gave new impetus to the assassination of a teacher showed a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed.
“What can one say about a leader who thus treats millions of members from different faith groups: First, do mental tests,” Mr Erdogan said in a televised speech in the central Anatolian city of Kayseri.
“What is the problem of the individual called Macron with Islam and Muslims?” Mr. Erdogan asked.
“Macron needs mental therapy,” Mr Erdogan added, adding that he did not expect the French leader to win a new mandate in the 2022 elections.
In a very unusual move, a French presidential official said the French ambassador to Turkey would be recalled from Ankara for consultations and would meet with Mr Macron to discuss the situation following Mr Erdogan’s explosion.
“President Erdogan’s comments are unacceptable. It is not an excessive and rude method. We demand that Erdogan change the course of his policy because it is dangerous in every respect,” the official told AFP.
Asked not to be named, the Elysee official said France had also noted “no messages of condolence and support” from the Turkish president after beheading teacher Samuel’s grandmother outside Paris.
The official also expressed concern over Ankara’s call to boycott French goods.
Mr Macron described Islam as a “religion in crisis” worldwide this month, saying the government would introduce a bill in December to strengthen the 1905 law that officially separates church and state in France.
He announced stricter oversight of schooling and better control over foreign funding for mosques.
But the debate over the role of Islam in France has taken a new turn after Mr Grandma was beheaded, prosecutors say, by 18-year-old Chechen, who has been linked to a jihadist in Syria.
Turkey is a Muslim-majority but secular country, part of NATO, but not the European Union, and its membership bidding has stalled for decades.
“You continue to choose Erdogan, which will not earn you anything,” the Turkish leader said.
“Elections will be (in France) … we will see your (Macron’s) fate. I do not think he has to go far. Why? He has not achieved anything for France, he must do it for himself.”
‘Behind the Disasters’
The other new split between the two leaders was the secession of the majority ethnic Armenian faction within Nagorno-Karabakh-Azerbaijan, which declared independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union and sparked a war that claimed 30,000 lives in the early 1990s.
Turkey strongly supports Azerbaijan in the conflict, but has denied Macron’s allegations that Ankara sent hundreds of Syrian fighters to help Azerbaijan.
Mr Erdogan on Saturday accused France of working with Russia and the United States to resolve the conflict in Minsk, saying it was “behind the disasters and the occupation of Azerbaijan”.
He reiterated previous claims that France, with its strong Armenian community, was arming Yerevan. “You think you will restore peace with the weapons you send to the Armenians. You can’t because you are not honest.”
But the Elysee official said Mr Erdogan had two months to respond to calls to change his position, ending its “dangerous adventures” in the eastern Mediterranean and ending “irresponsible behavior” on Karabakh.
“Action should be taken by the end of this year,” the official said.