“Extremely regrettable”. This is the expression used by the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tanju Bilgiç, in response to remarks made by Emmanuel Macron during the second day of his official stay in Algeria.
On Friday August 26, during a press briefing at the exit of the Saint-Eugène cemetery, the French head of state was questioned about the disenchantment that France arouses in Africa. The President of the Republic evoked the existence of a “huge manipulation” and an “influence agenda”, as well as the presence of “networks pushed behind the scenes by Turkey, Russia and China” , seeking to make France a “simple enemy on which everyone agrees”.
Turkey-Africa: Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s charm offensive
The response from one of the three accused was not long in coming: in a virulent press release published the next day, the ministry of the Turkish Foreign Affairs says it is ‘unacceptable that French President Macron, struggling to come to terms with his colonial past in Africa, particularly in Algeria, is trying to get rid of it by making accusations against other countries, including Turkey “. ” She [la France] should look for the source of these reactions in its own colonial past,” the statement continued.
Never stingy with an additional spade, the Turkish Foreign Ministry adds that these statements reflect “the distorted mentality of certain politicians”. Remarks which are not without echoing those made by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who, in October 2020, invited his French counterpart to carry out “mental health examinations”, following the bill to fight against “separatism” worn by Emmanuel Macron, which Erdogan considered to be a provocation towards the Muslim community. The Élysée had denounced “unacceptable remarks” and recalled its ambassador to Paris.
Turkey-Africa: does Erdogan want to take over from France?
This is not the first time that Paris and Ankara have engaged in a pass of arms over the Algerian case. One of them was also initiated by Emmanuel Macron himself. In the wake of the declarations, in October 2021, which earned him a diplomatic crisis with Algiers, the French president said he was “fascinated” by “Turkey’s ability to completely forget the role it played in Algeria and the domination it exercised, and to explain that we are the only colonizers”, while deploring that “the Algerians believe in it”.
For Paris, the insoluble Turkish equation
Beyond this interference in the Franco-Algerian relationship, relations between Emmanuel Macron and Recep Tayyip Erdogan have rarely been good. Persistent tensions that can be explained principally by a divergence of points of view and interests on a number of international issues between the two countries.
For several years, France has been the Member State of the European Union which has taken the firmest positions with regard to Ankara, and which has been the main support of Cyprus and Greece in the fight against Turkish incursions into exclusive economic zones in the Mediterranean.
A tone that does not bode any warming of bilateral relations in the short term
At the time, in August 2020, Erdogan had refused to comply with European injunctions, driven by France, and decided to send a seismic prospecting vessel near the Greek coast. Paris had then increased its military presence in Greece, forcing the Turkish president to recall his ship.
On the Libyan file, Turks and French also face each other. While France has long supported Marshal Khalifa Haftar, Turkey has militarily supported the other main party to the conflict, the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GAN) of Fayez al-Sarraj, and frustrated the attempted conquest of Tripoli by Haftar. It then made an agreement with the GAN, allowing it to exploit gas in the Mediterranean and to counter the EastMed device, which connects gas to Europe via Greece.
In Africa, the image of France is deteriorating, that of Turkey, Qatar and the Emirates is improving
In its press release of August 27, Turkish diplomacy said it hoped “that France will reach as quickly as possible the maturity necessary to face its own colonial past without accusing other countries, including ours”. A tone that does not bode well for any warming of bilateral relations in the short term, whereas, according to information from France24, the French Foreign Minister, Catherine Colonna, is expected in Turkey on 5 september next.