The French government has summoned the Turkish envoy in Paris over what it's dubbed as “insults” expressed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who took a swipe at Emmanuel Macron saying he was suffering “brain death".
"This is not a statement, these are insults", an Élysee official earlier said voicing an intention to speak to the ambassador and adding that France “had no comment to make on these insults".
During a press conference with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg in Paris on Thursday, Macron, one of the staunchest critics of Turkey’s recent operation in northeastern Syria, said Ankara had thereby presented a "fait accompli" to its NATO allies, with the offensive "endangering the actions of the anti-IS coalition".
Shortly thereafter, in a televised speech, Erdogan hit back urging the French politician to “have his own brain death checked".
“These statements are suitable only to people like you who are in a state of brain death", Erdogan said. "You know how to show off but you cannot even properly pay for NATO. You are a novice", he rounded off bluntly.
The verbal spat precedes a testy NATO summit in London slated for next week.
In his speech, Erdogan apparently referenced Macron’s recent remarks to The Economist on the current state of the North-Atlantic alliance, with the president depicting it as “cerebral death".
Following a backlash, he clarified his position saying the comments could be seen as a much needed wake-up call:
"So maybe we needed a wake-up call to continue and I am pretty glad about it, that it was the case", Macron told a press conference regarding his comments.
Macron’s choice of words prompted a flurry of feeback from European allies defending NATO, albeit speaking in a less charged manner than the Turkish president.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, ripped Macron for his "drastic words" and argued that NATO remained a major pillar of Germany's security.
More specifically, Stoltenberg said Thursday that "in uncertain times, we need strong multilateral institutions like NATO", stressing that he had "good and open discussions" with Macron.
The French president stood by his comments, with French Defence Minister Florence Parly clarifying that what Macron meant was the alliance's structure should be retooled to better resist the pressure coming from such powers as the US, China, and Russia.
Along these lines, in November 2018, the French president suggested creating a European Army for EU member states that could provide the bloc with protection against non-European foes.