It is cause for concern that notable newspapers of the American establishment, such as The New York Times, tend to posit that Macron and Erdogan are equally at fault.
France thus has a “battle of narratives” to fight and a major public diplomacy campaign to deploy, as we did, for example, in 2005-2006. To put it bluntly, we must avoid the label of “Islamophobia” getting under our skin. We live in a globalized world, where we must neither conceal our opinions nor appear insensitive to other cultures.
That is what President Macron has set off to do, by giving a 55-minute interview to Al-Jazeera, providing useful clarifications to the Muslim public opinion. He stressed that in France, one is free to mock religion through cartoons, but that these cartoons do not represent the views of the government.
We must also avoid being locked into a France-Turkey or Macron-Erdogan tête-à-tête, which does not help our purpose and plays into the hands of the Turkish leader. Seen this way, Erdogan’s excesses may serve us well: in his desire to play up a “clash of civilizations”, he has just attacked Germany again, going so far as to compare the fate of Muslims in Europe today to that of the Jewish people in the 1930s. Several years ago already, the Turkish president did not hesitate to speak of “Nazis” in reference to the leaders of northern Europe. Our partners chose to lay low then, so as not to compromise the EU-Turkey agreement on refugees.
Today, the situation is different. Erdogan’s internal position has weakened considerably. The Turkish economy is plummeting. One wonders to what extent his “civilizational” gesticulations (such as the recent conversion of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque) can reverse the current questioning of his power that has taken hold in Turkish opinion, for example among its youth.
Above all, the headlong rush into which the President of Turkey has launched actually leads him to multiply risks – his support for Azerbaijan is an example – and to accumulate errors.
With regard to Europe, the European Council of October 1 concluded with some openings towards Turkey, for instance concerning the modernization of the Customs Union, in response to the withdrawal of Turkish drilling vessels from Cypriot waters. It was commonly accepted that this was the result of action taken by Angela Merkel. The idea of sanctions was put aside.