ANKARA – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan challenged the United States to impose sanctions against his country while also launching a second personal attack Sunday on French President Emmanuel Macron.
Speaking a day after he suggested Macron needed mental health treatment because of his views on Islam and radical Muslims, Erdogan expanded his range to take aim at foreign critics.
“Whatever your sanctions are, don’t be late,” Erdogan said, referring to U.S. warnings for Turkey not to get directly involved in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, where Ankara supports Azerbaijan against ethnic Armenian forces.
The Turkish leader also mentioned Washington’s threat of sanctions after Turkey tested the Russian-made S-400 air defense system. The purchase has already seen Turkey kicked off the F-35 stealth fighter program.
“We stepped in for the F-35, you threatened us,” Erdogan told a televised ruling party congress in the eastern city of Malatya. “You said, ‘Send the S-400s back to Russia.’ We are not a tribal state. We are Turkey.”
The dispute over the S-400s, which NATO says pose a threat to the military alliance and particularly endanger the technical secrets of the F-35, is among a number of recent disputes between Turkey and some of its NATO allies.
These include gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean that has threatened a confrontation with Greece, as well as Turkey's stance in Syria, where it has targeted America’s Kurdish allies.
For months, the U.S. warned Ankara that it risked sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act if the S-400 system were activated. President Donald Trump, however, has held back on implementing the sanctions amid hopes Erdogan will not go ahead with activating the missiles.
Erdogan also returned to personal insults of Macron, who has been a vocal critic of Turkish foreign policy in recent months.
“The person in charge of France has lost his way,” Erdogan said. “He goes on about Erdogan while in bed and while awake. Look at yourself first and where you’re going. I said yesterday in Kayseri, he is a case and he really must be examined.”
Erdogan also turned his ire to Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders, whose tweet describing Erdogan as a “terrorist” was given prominence by several senior members of Turkey’s government and ruling party on Sunday.
The president said Turks had been made “targets for uncovering rising racism in Europe.”
He added: “Fascism is not in our book, it is in your book. Nazism happened in your countries.”
Three years ago, Erdogan sparked controversy when he called the Dutch government “Nazi remnants and fascists” over blocks on campaigning among the Netherlands’ Turkish diaspora ahead of a Turkish referendum on enlarging his powers.