Turkey vowed Wednesday to deliver a firm response to France’s ban of the Turkish ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves group linked to a top ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The far-right group is seen as a wing of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which is allied with Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the Turkish parliament.
Erdogan has been feuding bitterly with French President Emmanuel Macron on a number of geopolitical flashpoints and, more recently, France’s fight against radical Islam.
The Turkish foreign ministry said the French government had to “protect the freedom of assembly and expression of Turks in France”.
“We will respond in the firmest way possible to this decision,” it said.
The French cabinet formally disbanded the group’s local offshoot after a memorial centre to mass killings of Armenians during World War I was defaced at the weekend with graffiti including the name of the Grey Wolves.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said in a tweet announcing the group’s dissolution that it “incites discrimination and hatred and is implicated in violent actions”.
The Grey Wolves was a nickname given to members of a fringe Turkish movement that emerged in the 1960s and 70s.
Tied closely to the MHP, it advocated radical ideas and used violence in the 1980s against leftist activists and ethnic minorities.
The foreign ministry said that banning it showed “the French government is now completely under Armenian influence,” and accused Paris of “double standards” and “hypocrisy” because it allows the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and other groups to be active in France.
Turkey considers the PKK to be a terrorist organisation.
In its statement, the foreign ministry denied the very existence of the Grey Wolves, saying France was “dealing with an imaginary formation”.
It accused the French government of ignoring “incitements, threats and attacks” against Turks in France.
France’s Grey Wolves ban came against the backdrop of heightened tension between the country’s Armenian and Turkish communities over the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Turkey has strongly backed its ally Baku in the fighting over the region that is part of Azerbaijan but has been controlled by ethnic Armenian separatists since a 1990s war claimed 30,000 lives.
Four people were wounded outside Lyon last week in clashes between suspected Turkish nationalists and Armenians protesting against Azerbaijan’s military offensive.
Armenians have long campaigned for the mass killings of their ancestors in the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to be recognised as genocide, a call that has echoed in France.
© 2020 AFP