Ankara says Macron doesn’t understand Turkey

Macron says Erdogan’s ‘pan-Islamic project’ does not bode well for EU membership, Turkey responds that he ‘far from understands’.

ANKARA - Ankara on Tuesday accused French President Emmanuel Macron of failing to understand Turkey after he played down the chance of the country joining the EU and criticised President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for a "pan-Islamic" vision.

Macron on Monday said Erdogan had a "pan-Islamic project, which is regularly presented as anti-European and whose measures regularly go against our principles.”

He also said that the Turkey of Erdogan is "not the Turkey of President Kemal", referring Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who founded the modern republic in 1923 based on secular values after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy expressed "sadness" over Macron's comments, adding that the French president had "again" showed he "far from understands Turkey's realities”.

Macron also said Europe should build a "strategic partnership" with Turkey -- rather than full membership which Ankara has targeted for over half a century -- and urged an end to the "hypocrisy" of continuing long-stalled accession talks.

"Do we think today that in a clear and honest manner we can continue accession negotiations with Turkey (to join) the European Union?" Macron asked an audience of diplomats, lawmakers and international relations experts.

Out of the total of 35 chapters needed to be closed to join the EU, 16 have been opened with just one closed.

Aksoy hit out at Macron's description of Erdogan's vision as "anti-European". "The idea that our country is 'anti-European' has no relation with the truth," he said.

Since the July 2016 failed coup, relations between the EU states and Turkey have soured over criticism of the crackdown that followed the attempted putsch and Europe's concerns have grown over what it says is the decline of the rule of law.

EU leaders also reacted warily to Erdogan's June election victory which saw him win a second mandate with enhanced powers that critics fear risk leading to authoritarianism.

But Erdogan made clear after the election he wants to bolster ties with Europe. And any rupture could be very damaging for Turkey at a time when its currency has bled value due to a dispute with the United States, raising fears of an economic crisis.

Macron's comments were made the same day as Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, who is Erdogan's son-in-law and his top pointman on the economy, held talks in Paris with French counterpart Bruno Le Maire.