Analysis: Bad blood - why France-Turkey cartoon row could leave lasting impact

By Orhan Coskun and by Michel Rose

PARIS / ANKARA (Reuters)—French Emmanuel Macron and Turkish Erdogan have had long been linked to barbs and sparrows, but the cartoon row by Prophet Mohammad has taken them down into a new low with more enduring repercussions. PARIS / ANKARA (Reuters)

Both sides are officials describing a sequence of frosty exchanges and rebellions between the two leaders even before the last weeks.

But if the bridges can not be remedied, a French-led plan to sanction the already unstable economy of Turkey, according to Turkish analyst Sinan Ulgen, is likely to create traction.

The director of Ulgen's Istanbul-based Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies think tank, said: "We're not back with Erdogan either in Turkey or Macron in France."

In view of the events of the past few weeks, a French official acquainted with Turkey 's policies said, "The topic of sanctions will be addressed."

EU officials have also said that the sanctions would extend if Turkey refused to de-escalate East Mediterranean tensions by 10 December but no plan has yet been drafted.

The last scandal emerged after in France, last month, a French teacher who showed students cartoons of the Prophet reported by Charlie Hebdo in the French satirical weekly.

With the help of many people, the French Government found this an assault on freedom of expression.

Macron has dedicated itself to redoubling attempts to stop radical Islamic ideologies that subvert French ideals.

Erdogan charged Macron with an anti-Islamic agenda and claimed it was a mental health inspection that was necessary.

The West, he claimed, want to "relaunch the cruises," mocked Islam.

Franco-Turkish relations have been more rooted, say analysers and politicians, because of competing geopolitical interests.

In Syria, North Africa and the east Mediterranean, Ankara is gradually affected, whereas in that position Macron is the clearest champion of European interests.

The competition has previously extended to personal disputes.

Three months after he became chairman in August 2017, Macron told an interviewee that it was not so "cool," because it was a reason to speak to Erdogan.

One senior Turkish official said the statement carried 'major deceit and confusion' to Erdogan's entourage.

"The president wanted to express his disappointment regarding Macron's statement explicitly," the official added.

Then, in March 2018, Macron met with the Syrian Kurdish YPG, a group that Turkey designates as a terrorist entity, but is regarded as a partner in Syria by the Western powers against the Islamic State.

Erdogan suspected France openly of promoting extremism.

The role of Macron in relation to the Kurds "causes friction both in face-to - face meetings and telephone calls" said a Turkish leader source.

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French officials were disappointed by the behavior of Turkey in Syria, alleging Turkey with the help of extremist Islamists among rebels who fought President Bashar al-Assad, refuted by Ankara.

As they posed concerns, French officers suggested that Turkey might bring Syrian refugees across the EU in exchange for billions of euros of help, jeopardizing an arrangement with the EU to curb the influx of migrants into Europe.

In public discourses, Erdogan frequently charged the Syrian refugees with "opening the doors."

A second official from France said the team of Macron saw such attacks as extortion attempt.

Ties were especially poor during Erdogan's and Macron's July 2018 NATO summits.

Members of the delegation had furious conversations and, aside from the interpreters, all the officers were ultimately dispatched, so that Erdogan and Macron could speak to guy.

However, no thaw was there.

The French official said, "This is a cold friendship.

Turkish officials did not elaborate upon their reports of the gathering.

In November 2019, Macron said a NATO interviewer suffered a "brain death" because an alliance involvement in the Middle East was being undermined by a member nation, Turkey.

Erdogan said that Macron needs to search if he's dead in his head.

A French diplomat then said, "Ties have been degraded."

Nevertheless, the two representatives stayed responsive to dialogue.

According to the French diplomat, phone calls were civil.

The team of Macron distinguished Erdogan's rhetoric to the public, which the diplomat said it felt consolidating his support at home and his genuine intentions.

However, rhetoric has risen to an alarming low in recent weeks.

In the words of the first French official, since personal insults were meaningless the French president chose not to react to Erdogan's recent remarks.

The official said that while foreign leaders sent text messages to Macron expressing condolences about the killing of the professor, none of them were sent to Macron on behalf of Erdogan.

As president, Macron's predecessor Francois Hollande had regular contacts with Erdogan and likened him to Russian president Vladimir Putin when he was in power.

Hollande said to Reuters, "Erdogan is a nationalist speaker capable of flying away like Putin's handle.

"When he needs to talk in a month or two to Macron, but it is still clear whether Macron is going to let him do so without any consequences."

(Additional Elizabeth Pineau study in Paris and Tuvan Gumrukcu report in Ankara; Christian Lowe writing and Nick Tattersall editing)