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France summons Turkish ambassador over Erdogan's 'brain dead' Macron jibe

Macron had earlier declared NATO 'brain dead' [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 November, 2019

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The Turkish and French leaders have engaged in a war of words this week over Ankara's invasion of northeast Syria and its role in NATO.
France summoned the Turkish ambassador on Friday to seek explanations after his leader described French President Emmanuel Macron as "brain dead".

The move came amid an ongoing war of words between Macron and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of a NATO summit next week that both men will attend.

Tensions have mounted over Turkey's role within the trans-Atlantic defense alliance since Ankara launched its controversial military operation against Kurdish-led forces in northeast Syria last month. Turkey also raised concerns among NATO allies earlier this year with its purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems.

Macron, complaining of a US leadership vacuum, recently lamented the "brain death" of NATO and said the allies needed a "wake-up call". The French president on Thursday reitirated his criticism of Turkey's operation against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who led the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.

"I respect the security interests of our Turkish ally ... but one can't say that we are allies and demand solidarity, and on the other hand, present allies with a fait accompli by a military intervention which jeopardises the action of the coalition against IS," Macron said at a meeting with the NATO chief, Jens Stoltenberg.

The comments triggered anger from Turkey's leadership, prompting Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to slam Macron as a "sponsor of terrorism" over his support for the Kurdish-led forces, which Ankara deems a terrorist organisation.

President Erdogan then shot back on Friday: "You should get checked whether you're brain dead."

"Kicking Turkey out of NATO or not, how is that up to you? Do you have the authority to make such a decision?" he asked, characterising Macron as "inexperienced."

The French foreign ministry said in a statement that Ambassador Ismail Hakki Musa was summoned on Friday to explain "unacceptable statements ... that have no place in Turkish-French relations and cannot substitute for the necessary dialogue between the two countries".

An official in Macron's office said that NATO allies are expecting "clear answers" from Turkey about its intentions in Syria.

The Macron-Erdogan spat comes amid other problems within NATO that are expected to come to the fore at next week's summit in London, including US President Donald Trump's complaints that other members don't spend enough on defence, as well as differences over the alliance's post-Cold War mission.

The Turkish ambassador to Athens was also summoned on Thursday in the wake of an agreement between Turkey and Libya's UN-backed government to delineate the maritime boundaries between the two countries.

Greece, Cyprus and Egypt have all condemned the pactdescribing it as a serious breach of international law that disregards the lawful rights of other eastern Mediterranean countries. 

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is planning to raise the issue at next week's NATO summit.

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