Turkish rhetoric towards France hardens as elections approach

Turkey’s media and politicians responded harshly to an April proposal made by French writers and politicians to remove verses from the Quran that some perceive as inciting violence and anti-Semitism.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, for example, suggested the proposal was motived by Islamophobia, racism and xenophobia, whilst Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ labelled those promoting the changes, “imbeciles of the 21st century and the Western version of Daesh (ISIS).”

Such rhetoric stands in contrast to that used earlier in the year by Turkish official and media when referring to France.

Indeed, an editorial published in the pro-government Daily Sabah newspaper in January went so far as to suggest that “France could replace the United States as Turkey's strategic partner in the Middle East and elsewhere,” whilst painting a positive picture of the relations between Turkey and France.

This followed French President Emmanuel Macron’s criticism of US President Donald Trump’s decision, last December, to relocate the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a move that angered Turkey.

Since then, relations between France and Turkey have been bumpy. Macron’s criticism of Turkey’s military occupation of Syria’s Afrin region and his suggestion that February’s United Nations demand for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria should include Turkey’s Afrin operation, riled Ankara.

The latest bout of Turkish criticism of France comes as Turkey heads towards twin presidential and parliamentary elections on 24th June, in which Erdoğan and his allies seek to whip up nationalist sentiment to court voters.