Latest Turkey-France row could leave lasting impact – Reuters

The row between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron over cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad could drag their relations to a new low that brings with it long lasting consequences, Reuters said on Tuesday.

The spat is likely to lead to France raising the issue of sanctions targeting Ankara in the coming days, the agency said, citing Turkish analyst Sinan Ülgen and a French official familiar with policy towards Ankara.

The French President's defence of the controversial cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad and remarks on Islam and Muslims have sparked widespread protests in Muslim countries, with Erdoğan being the most vocal among their leaders, questioning Macron’s mental state while calling for a boycott of all French products.

Erdoğan’s remarks prompted France to recall its ambassador to Turkey for consultation.

“Neither Erdogan in Turkey nor Macron in France will step back,” Ülgen, head of the Istanbul-based Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies think tank, told Reuters.

The events of the past few weeks have sparked a need to raise “the question of sanctions,” the French official said.

Turkey is already facing the threat of sanctions from EU leaders, who have threatened Ankara with the measure unless it de-escalate tensions with Greece and Cyprus over hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean by Dec. 10.

Even though the latest tensions were sparked by what Erdoğan called Macron’s anti-Islamic agenda, according to analysts and officials, the root cause of the souring of ties is more likely conflicting strategic interests, Reuters said.

Ankara is increasingly asserting itself in Syria, North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean, the agency said, all locations where Macron ardently advocates for European interests.

Despite a string of disagreements over Kurds, terrorism, Syria and refugees, the two leaders maintained open lines of communication, Reuters said, but the discourse from both sides in recent weeks has reached an all time low.