France has condemned what it called “declarations of violence” by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and raised the possibility of new sanctions against Ankara.
Erdogan has been involved in a bitter feud with French President Emmanuel Macron over a number of geopolitical issues and, more recently, France’s fight against radical Islam.
“There are now declarations of violence, even hatred, which are regularly posted by President Erdogan which are unacceptable,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Europe 1 radio on November 5.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said that the banning by Paris of a Turkish ultranationalist group in France is a “double standard” and warned that it will take countermeasures against the “hypocritical” move.
The nature of the Turkish measures was not immediately clear.
France said on November 4 that it was banning a group, which it referred to as “the paramilitary and ultranationalist movement of the Grey Wolves,” adding that the group was involved in violent protests targeting Kurdish and Armenian activists.
Gray Wolves, not an officially registered group, is s frequently used nickname for Turkey’s Ulku Ocaklari — Idealist Hearths in Turkish — an ultranationalist youth organization affiliated with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
The group was involved in anti-Armenian demonstrations in the Lyon and Grenoble areas late last month, according to the government decree.
The French decree, however, does not explicitly name Ulku Ocaklari.
The MHP is allied with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party in parliament.
Paris also cited the symbols and slogans used by the group, including a hand salute.
“It is unacceptable to prohibit symbols which are quite common, have no illegal aspect and are used in many countries,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said on November 5.
Ankara further accused the French government of “being taken captive by Armenian circles.”
The demonstrations last month came against the background of conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, in which ethnically Turkic Azerbaijan is strongly backed by Ankara.
Turkey and France have been at loggerheads over the conflicts in Syria and Libya as well as competition for natural gas in the Mediterranean and, more recently, over Macron’s vow to uphold secular values, including the right to mock Islam and other religions, as part of a battle against extremism.
Le Drian said there have been serious disagreements between Paris and Ankara for several years due to Turkey’s actions.
“Turkey is taking aggressive actions in the immediate vicinity of Europe, in particular in Libya, in the eastern Mediterranean, in Nagorno-Karabakh and in northern Iraq. Now a new factor has emerged. In recent days, the tone of Erdogan’s statements addressed to France and Europe has changed. Erdogan regularly makes statements full of hatred and violence, including against French President Emmanuel Macron,” Le Drian said, adding that “Paris demands that Turkey abandon such behavior.”
Erdogan has recently called for a boycott of French goods, accusing Macron of Islamophobia and advising the French leader to get “mental checks.”