The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on Saturday warned his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, “not to mess” with Turkey, as tensions between the Nato allies escalated.
“Don’t mess with the Turkish people. Don’t mess with Turkey,” Erdoğan said during a televised speech in Istanbul on the 40th anniversary of the 1980 military coup.
Macron has strongly condemned Ankara during a standoff between Greece and Cyprus on one side and Turkey on the other over hydrocarbon resources and naval influence in the eastern Mediterranean.
Erdoğan urged Greece to “stay away from wrong” actions in the disputed waters backed by countries such as France, which stepped up its military presence in the region after rival naval exercises by Athens and Ankara last month.
Macron on Thursday said Europeans must be “clear and firm with, not Turkey as a nation and people, but with the government of President Erdoğan, which has taken unacceptable actions”.
The French leader was speaking before the summit of the EU’s seven Mediterranean nations, which threatened Turkey with sanctions over its activities.
The latest tensions began after Turkey deployed the Oruc Reis research vessel and warships to the disputed waters on 10 August and prolonged the mission three times.
But the Turkish leader on Saturday dismissed such remarks and accused Macron of “lacking historical knowledge”.
“Mr Macron, you’re going to have more problems with me,” Erdoğan threatened.
They were his first comments directly taking aim at the French leader after remaining silent during the latest row.
He also said France “couldn’t give a lesson in humanity” to Turkey, and told Macron to look first at France’s own record, notably in Algeria and its role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Demonstrating the ire Macron’s comments have raised, Erdoğan on Saturday evening again took aim at the French leader.
“Macron, you already don’t have much time. You’re on your last legs,” Erdoğan said during a speech in Istanbul as part of a campaign to sign up new members to his ruling party.
The next French presidential election will be in 2022.
Relations between Turkey and France have deteriorated over the eastern Mediterranean, but the two allies disagree on other major issues including the Syria and Libya conflicts.
Ankara and Paris have previously traded barbs after French officials in 2018 met Syrian Kurdish leaders linked to a US-backed militia viewed by Turkey as terrorists.
The two countries are also on opposing sides in Libya, where Ankara backed the UN-recognised Government of National Accord in Tripoli against a 2019 offensive by military leader Khalifa Haftar.
France is suspected of supporting Haftar, but insists it is neutral in the conflict.
Erdoğan accused France in his first speech on Saturday of intervening in Libya “for petrol”, and in Africa for “diamonds, gold, copper”.