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Politics

Mitsotakis Rips Erdogan Over Insults to Macron, Greece’s Ally

ATHENS – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis quickly jumped in to defend French President Emmanuel Macron against insults from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is upset France has backed Greece in a dispute over boundaries in the Aegean and East Mediterranean.

"Personal insults against President Macron and hate speech targeting France by the Turkish leadership is unacceptable, fuels religious hatred and undermines peaceful coexistence," Mitsotakis tweeted, said Kathimerini, after France recalled its Ambassador to Turkey in protest.

Erdogan, furious that France is rallying around Greece and planning to sell Rafale fighter jets as a further defense against Turkey, said Macron needed mental health treatment and made other comments that the French government described as unacceptably rude.

At a party, Erdogan questioned his French counterpart's mental condition while criticizing Macron’s attitude toward Islam and Muslims in an apparent response to statements Macron made about problems created by radical Muslims in France who practice what the French leader termed “Islamist separatism.”

“What is the problem of this person called Macron with Islam and Muslims?” Erdogan asked rhetorically during his Justice and Development party meeting in the central Anatolian city of Kayseri.

“What else can be said to a head of state who does not understand freedom of belief and who behaves in this way to millions of people living in his country who are members of a different faith?” the Turkish leader continued.

The French Presidency, showing no signs of even pretending diplomacy, fired back almost immediately with a statement that said, “Excess and rudeness are not a method” and “We are not accepting insults.”

Using unusually strong language, the French presidency said, “We demand Erdogan to change his policy, which is dangerous in all aspects,” but the Turkish leader made no response.

France said that Erdogan, a devout Muslim, did not offer condolences following the beheading near Paris of a teacher who had shown in class some caricatures of Islam's Prophet Muhammad. French judicial authorities are investigating the killing as an Islamist terror attack.

Tensions between NATO allies France and Turkey have intensified in recent months over issues that include the fighting in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, a region within Azerbaijan that is controlled by ethnic Armenian separatists.

Macron has notably accused Turkey of flouting its commitments by ramping up its military presence in Libya and bringing in jihadi fighters from Syria.

France also has sided with Greece and Cyprus in tensions with Turkey over offshore oil and gas drilling in the eastern Mediterranean, prompting criticism from Erdogan and other Turkish officials, adding to the still growing tension.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

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