Turkish foreign minister expected in France as Dutch rally row rages

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is expected in France on Sunday, French authorities said, as tensions rise over rallies abroad to help Ankara gain backing for a key vote.

Turkish foreign minister expected in France as Dutch rally row rages
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Photo: Steffi Loos/AFP

His visit to the eastern French city of Metz was “confirmed”, a local official told AFP on Saturday. Alain Carton said the meeting was due to be held in an auditorium and had been organised by a local Turkish association.

Cavusoglu was expected in the afternoon, he said, adding that the visit had been cleared by the French foreign ministry.

“The prefecture has been charged with ensuring security… (and to ensure) there is no disruption to public order,” he said.

Cavusoglu was to travel to the Netherlands on Saturday for a rally to gather support for a referendum on boosting the powers of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but officials there barred his plane from landing, sparking a furious reaction from Ankara.

Germany and the Netherlands have both banned rallies seeking support from Turkish expatriates for the April 16 referendum seeking to extend Erdogan's powers.

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Erdogan calls French separatism bill ‘guillotine’ of democracy

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday denounced a planned French law designed to counter "Islamist separatism" as a "guillotine" of democracy.

Erdogan calls French separatism bill 'guillotine' of democracy
Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as "anti-Muslim". Photo: Adem ALTAN/AFP

The draft legislation has been criticised both inside France and abroad for stigmatising Muslims and giving the state new powers to limit speech and religious groups.

“The adoption of this law, which is openly in contradiction of human rights, freedom of religion and European values, will be a guillotine blow inflicted on French democracy,” said Erdogan in a speech in Ankara.

The current version of the planned law would only serve the cause of extremism, putting NGOs under pressure and “forcing young people to choose between their beliefs and their education”, he added.

READ ALSO: What’s in France’s new law to crack down on Islamist extremism?

“We call on the French authorities, and first of all President (Emmanuel) Macron, to act sensibly,” he continued. “We expect a rapid withdrawal of this bill.”

Erdogan also said he was ready to work with France on security issues and integration, but relations between the two leaders have been strained for some time.

France’s government is in the process of passing new legislation to crack down on what it has termed “Islamist separatism”, which would give the state more power to vet and disband religious groups judged to be threats to the nation.

Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as “anti-Muslim”.

READ ALSO: Has Macron succeeded in creating an ‘Islam for France’?

Last October, Erdogan questioned Macron’s “mental health”, accusing him of waging a “campaign of hatred” against Islam, after the French president defended the right of cartoonists to caricature the prophet Mohammed.

The two countries are also at odds on a number of other issues, including Libya, Syria and the eastern Mediterranean.