Turkey and France: More Than Just a War of Words

For Paris, the latest tiff is about reclaiming its influence. For Ankara, it’s about distracting its citizens.

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Last month, a cartoon depicting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lounging in his underwear graced the cover of French magazine Charlie Hebdo. The publication once again raised eyebrows in Europe, but it raised tempers in Ankara, especially following a quarrel between Erdogan and French President Emmanuel Macron that quickly escalated into personal insults, a diplomatic showdown and a boycott on French goods. Direct military conflict is not in the cards, but the dispute is more than just a dramatic war of words. The latest spat has been co-opted by both France and Turkey as an opportunity to garner regional credibility and apply an ideological-religious dimension to their rivalry in the Eastern Mediterranean. For France, it’s about earning credibility in the EU and among Eastern Mediterranean allies. For Turkey, it’s about distracting its citizens from financial hardship and positioning itself as the leader of the Sunni Islamic world. And for both, the means to their respective ends is to broaden existing divisions. Water and Oil The row began with a debate over the role of political Islam in French society. After a string of terrorist incidents, Macron said that political Islam was “in crisis” all over the world and incompatible with […]

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Caroline D. Rose
Caroline Rose has a Masters of Science (MSc) in the History of International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Just before joining GPF she served as a Research Associate for LSE’s International Drug Policy Unit (IDPU), where she researched the nexus between illicit economies and armed insurgencies. She earned her undergraduate degree from American University's School of International Service and has worked previously at both Brookings Institute and the Atlantic Council. Her studies and projects at these institutions covered a range of topics, from Russian and Chinese cyber warfare, evolving American interest within a changing international order, and grand security strategies against state-led revisionism in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and the Pacific. Throughout she's written for a diverse array of publications including Limes in Italy.