French President Emmanuel Macron attends a video conference of a EU summit at the Elysee Palace in Paris, March 25, 2021.
French President Emmanuel Macron attends a video conference of a EU summit at the Elysee Palace in Paris, March 25, 2021.

PARIS - Tensions are again rising between France and Turkey with President Emmanuel Macron accusing the Turkish government of meddling in the runup to next year’s French presidential election. After weeks of a relative lull in the often rocky relationship between France and Turkey, French President Emmanuel Macron signaled new trouble, accusing Turkey of meddling in France’s presidential elections due next year. 

In an interview that aired Tuesday on French national TV, Macron accused Ankara of spreading lies through its state-controlled media and portraying France as having a problem with Islam.

Macron asserted that Turkey will try to interfere with the next presidential election. He said the threats are real and called them unbearable. The French president said he does not want to restart a peaceful relationship with Turkey if those actions are ongoing.

This is not the first time western European leaders accuse Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of engaging in such activities. In 2017, he came under criticism when he asked German citizens of Turkish origin to vote against parties supporting chancellor Angela Merkel. 

FILE - Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to reporters following a Cabinet meeting, in Ankara, Turkey, Jan. 11, 2021.

This time is different according to Didier Billion, deputy director at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs. 

The researcher describes his surprise when he heard Macron’s tone and unverified accusations about Turkey’s meddling with the next French presidential election. Billion says he finds this statement hard to understand as Macron deeply engaged against Turkey throughout 2020 but without succeeding as neither NATO nor the European Council took sanctions.

The Turkish foreign ministry responded to Macron’s remarks with a statement calling them dangerous, saying they alienate foreign communities in France. 

Other disputes between France and Turkey regarding Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh have also caused tensions between the two NATO allies.

Last year, Erdogan even called for a boycott of French products over what he charged was Macron's negative attitude toward Islam and Muslims after a spate of terror attacks in France.

Analysts say that overall, the relationship between Turkey and the French leadership has been deteriorating for the past 15 years.

Billion details the huge efforts and reforms made by Turkey in 2005, at the beginning of the integration process with the Europe Union, Then, around 2007-2008, he said Europeans started imposing harsh conditions, especially after French president Nicolas Sarkozy was elected, according to Billion. He says there was then a breaking point when Erdogan had enough and used those tensions with the EU to advance his nationalist agenda, becoming aggressive with the Europeans and insulting some of their leaders.

Ankara and Washington have also been at odds over issues including Syria policy, human rights and the Turkey’s S-400 missile defense acquisition from Russia.  The purchase prompted the US to impose sanctions and the remove Turkey from its F-35 fighter jet program. 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday at the NATO summit in Brussels.