"Religion is the President's last resort"
Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Emmanuel Macron are not on good terms at the moment. "There is always polemic between the two leaders either on the phone or in front of the press," wrote Burhanettin Duran recently in the pro-government Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah.
It is well known, says the columnist, who has good access to the presidential palace, that "Erdogan lectures Macron on world politics and history" – evidently not always in a congenial tone. According to Duran, the Turkish leader does not have a high opinion of his French colleague, considering him "inexperienced" and "naive".
The commentary appeared a few weeks ago. Today it would likely be even harsher. The Turkish-French war of words at the highest political level is an expression of poisoned political relations.
"Turkey has a bellicose attitude towards its NATO allies," said Emmanuel Macron recently in an interview with the Arab news channel Al Jazeera.
Notable here is that the Frenchman chose a broadcaster in the Gulf state of Qatar of all places for his tirades against Ankara, because Doha is one of Erdogan's few remaining allies in the Arab world. Macron made use of his airtime to smooth ruffled feathers after proclaiming his categorical commitment to freedom of expression in the wake of the renewed conflict over the Muhammad cartoons.
But his main aim was to launch broadsides against Erdogan's Turkey. Macron alleged that the Turkish President had played a part in stoking the conflict. And now he, Macron, wished to calm the waters. But that could only happen if the "Turkish President respects France, respects the European Union and its values, and stops spreading lies and insults".
Macron certainly knows how to dish it out, as was made clear here once again. And his counterpart in Ankara is every bit as adept at casting aspersions. On several occasions, the Turkish president has publicly urged the Frenchman to have his head examined.
This insulting bit of advice was prompted by Macron's much-quoted speech in which he announced that he would take action against "Islamic separatism" in France.