Canada’s minister of foreign affairs came to the defence of the French president Monday, calling the Turkish president’s recent comments on the French leader’s mental state “totally unacceptable.”
In a tweet Monday afternoon, Foreign Affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne said that Canada stood “in solidarity with our French friends.”
“Turkey’s recent comments about France are totally unacceptable. We must return to respectful diplomatic exchanges,” he tweeted, adding that Canada would “will always stand together to defend freedom of expression with respect.”
Champagne’s statement comes amid a recent spat between French president Emmanuel Macron and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Over the weekend, Erdoğan said that Macron needed “some sort of a mental treatment,” after he promised to crack down on radical Islamism following the beheading of Samuel Paty, a French teacher who used a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad in a class on freedom of expression.
“What is the problem of this person called Macron with Islam and Muslims?” Erdogan asked rhetorically during a speech at a local party congress in the city of Kayseri.
“What else can be said to a head of state who does not understand freedom of belief and who behaves in this way to millions of people living in his country who are members of a different faith?”
Earlier in October, Macron pledged to fight “Islamic separatism,” in the country, later voicing support for the right to caricature Prophet Muhammad after Paty’s beheading.
Macron’s comments have not been well received around the world.
French products have been subjected to boycotts across the Middle East, while protests were ignited across Iraq, Turkey and the Gaza Strip.
Pakistan’s parliament has since passed a resolution condemning the publication of any caricatures of the prophet, shortly after summoning France’s ambassador to the country to condemn the incitement of Islamophobia.
Macron has since doubled down on his defence of free speech and French secularism, writing in tweets published Sunday in both English and Arabic that “we will not give in, ever.”
“We respect all differences in a spirit of peace. We do not accept hate speech and defend reasonable debate. We will always be on side of human dignity and universal values.”
— With files from the Associated Press