France is recalling its ambassador to Turkey after “unacceptable” comments by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who questioned President Emmanuel Macron’s mental health over his attitude towards Muslims.
France and its Nato ally are already at loggerheads over issues including maritime rights in the eastern Mediterranean and conflicts in Libya, Syria and most recently between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.
The two sides are now at odds over internal policies.
Ankara is particularly incensed by a campaign championed by Mr Macron to protect France’s secular values against Islamist extremism, an issue given new impetus by the murder this month of a teacher who showed his class cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
“President Erdogan’s comments are unacceptable. Excess and rudeness are not a method. We demand that Erdogan change the course of his policy because it is dangerous in every respect,” a French presidential official told AFP.
In an unusual move, the official said the French ambassador to Turkey was being recalled for consultations and would meet Mr Macron to discuss the situation.
The Elysee official, who asked not to be named, also said France had noted “the absence of messages of condolence and support” from the Turkish president after the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty near Paris on October 16.
Mr Erdogan criticised Mr Macron over his policies towards France’s large Muslim minority, saying that he needed “mental checks”.
“What’s the problem of the individual called Macron with Islam and with the Muslims?” Mr Erdogan asked.
“Macron needs mental treatment,” he said.
He indicated he did not expect Mr Macron to win a new mandate in the 2022 elections.
The Elysee official said Mr Erdogan had two months to reply to the demands for a change in stance and that it end its “dangerous adventures” in the eastern Mediterranean and “irresponsible conduct” over Nagorno-Karabakh, where Ankara is strongly backing Azerbaijan.
“Measures need to be taken by the end of the year,” the official said.
The latest argument sparked renewed debates online over boycotting Turkish products and over France's counter-extremism policy.
Several Saudi firms have announced that they will no longer stock Turkish produce.
Hassan Sajwani, a prominent UAE Twitter personality, said that he was sorry that a potential boycott could gather steam and that Turks would again be impacted by their president’s actions.
Others defended Islam, using a hashtag Our Prophet is a Red Line and criticising France for allowing the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to run cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.