Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron of “colonial” aims in Lebanon on Thursday and called his recent visit to Beirut a “spectacle”, amid growing tensions between Ankara and Paris.
“What Macron wants is to restore colonial order (in Lebanon),” Erdogan said during a speech in Ankara. “We are not about chasing after photos or doing spectacles in front of cameras that, that’s not what interests us” he added.
The Turkish head of state was referring to Macron’s high-profile visit to Beirut last week, following the devastating explosion on August 4, which has so far left 171 dead and more than 6,500 injured, destroying large parts of the Lebanese capital.
While the Turkish president has not personally visited Beirut, he dispatched his Vice President and foreign minister to the city last week.
From 1920 until its independence in 1943, Lebanon was under French colonial rule, while before that, being under Ottoman rule for four centuries.
Erdogan’s attacks come against a backdrop of growing tensions between Turkey and France, linked to divergent interests in Libya and the eastern Mediterranean. Also, Turkey’s search for gas in an area claimed by Greece and Cyprus has angered its neighbours and the European Union.
Supporting Athens, Paris denounced Ankara’s “unilateral” actions and announced Thursday that it had temporarily strengthened its military presence in the disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean with the deployment of two planes and two warships.
Pro-governmental Turkish media have meanwhile reacted by accusing France of “overstepping the line” and “seeking war”.
Erdogan did not directly comment on the French decision on Thursday, but he mentioned without naming a “country which has no coast in the Eastern Mediterranean”, calling on it “not to believe of itself bigger than it is.”