Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday lashed out at a French reporter who asked him about claims that Ankara sent arms to radical groups in Syria, during a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace in Paris, accusing him of speaking like a member of the faith-based Gülen movement, AFP reported.
“Those are the words of Feto [a derogatory name used by the Turkish government for the Gülen movement]. You should learn not to speak with the words of Feto,” Erdoğan told French investigative journalist Laurent Richard when he asked about Turkish intelligence service trucks carrying weapons to jihadist groups in Syria in late 2013.
“I am speaking as a journalist!” responded Richard.
“Those [prosecutors] who carried out that operation [intercepting the trucks] are in prison. They were Feto prosecutors. The intelligence service has the authority to transport weapons by truck for this kind of operation,” Erdoğan continued, adding: “You ask me this question. But why not ask questions about the 4,000 US trucks that transported weapons? If you were a journalist, you would investigate them, too. Four thousand trucks. Write about them.”
“When you ask your questions, don’t speak with the words of another. And I want you to know, you don’t have someone in front of you who will easily swallow this.”
“Today I just tried to ask questions Turkish journalists can no longer ask to @RT_Erdogan . #pressfreedom” the French journalist tweeted following the press conference.
Erdoğan also rebuffed Macron when the French president said at the joint news conference that countries must respect the law in their fight against terrorism, voicing concern about the fate of students, teachers and journalists in Turkey’s crackdown following a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
“Terror doesn’t form by itself. Terror and terrorists have gardeners,” Erdoğan said, adding: “These gardeners are those people viewed as thinkers. They water … from their columns in newspapers.”
The Turkish president also called on the French government to be aware of Gülen movement people in France.
Concerning Turkish-European Union relations, Erdoğan said Turkey is “tired” of its EU membership process and that it cannot wait for membership in the bloc indefinitely.
As part of Erdoğan’s visit to Paris, Turkey’s Undersecretariat for the Defense Industry and Franco-Italian manufacturer Eurosam signed an anti-missile defense system agreement.
According to the state-run Anadolu news agency, Erdoğan termed the signing of the defense deal as a “very important step,” adding that the agreement includes Italy, another NATO member country.
Turkish Airlines (THY) Chief Executive Ilker Avci signed a non-binding agreement with Airbus on a potential order for 25 A350-900 aircraft during the visit, Anadolu reported.
Erdoğan said the two countries should aim for a trade volume of €20 billion ($24 billion).