In an interview with the Europe 1 radio station on Thursday French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said there have been serious disagreements between Paris and Ankara for several years due to Turkey’s actions.
“Turkey is taking aggressive actions in the immediate vicinity of Europe, in particular in Libya, in the eastern Mediterranean, in Nagorno-Karabakh and in northern Iraq. Now a new factor has emerged. In recent days, the tone of President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s statements addressed to France and Europe has changed. Erdogan regularly makes statements full of hatred and violence, including against French President Emmanuel Macron,” said Le Drian, adding that “Paris demands that Turkey abandon such behavior.”
The top French diplomat’s remarks came a day after a Turkish ultranationalist organization, Gray Wolves, was banned in France.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Foreign Ministry has claimed that “this decision also shows that the French government has become totally a captive of the Armenian circles.”
Ankara claims that Gray Wolves does not exist as an organization, and that the decision of the French government is “imaginary, hypocritical and provocative” in nature. Still it calls it “unacceptable to ban symbols.”
“We will reciprocate to this decision in the strongest way,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued on November 4.
In Turkey, the Gray Wolves are linked to the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) of Devlet Bahceli. The party has a political alliance with President Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The plan to ban the Gray Wolves came after two anti-Armenian demonstrations by people carrying Turkish flags in the Lyon and Grenoble areas. The demonstrations are believed to be tied to the Gray Wolves.
French media also reported that a monument in Lyon dedicated to the victims of the 1915 massacres of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey was defaced with pro-Turkish Gray Wolves slogans and “RTE” in reference to Erdogan.
The Gray Wolves are considered the militant wing of the MHP, known for their pan-Turkish and far-right ideology.
In the past, they are believed to have had ties to the Turkish “deep state” and mafia, having been involved in street violence against leftists in Turkey during the 1970s and 1980s. Its members have also been involved in attacks on Kurdish activists and aided the state’s fight against Kurdish nationalist militants.
There have been tensions in France between its large ethnic Armenian population and Turkish communities over the ongoing conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, in which Turkey has strongly backed its ally Azerbaijan.