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In an extensive interview, the French president accuses Ankara and Moscow of inciting anti-French sentiment in Africa.

French President Emmanuel Macron has accused Russia and Turkey of spreading anti-French sentiment in Africa by funding people by inciting anger against France in the media.

We should not be naive about this topic: many of those who speak, make videos, who are present in the French-speaking media are funded by Russia or Turkey, Macron said on Friday in an interview with Jeune Afrique magazine, while accusing Moscow and Ankara are trying to play with post-colonial rage.

He also said Turkey was contributing to misunderstandings over his defense of the right to draw cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

The comments referred to the brutal murder last month of a French teacher who was beheaded in the middle of the day after showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad during an hour of freedom of expression. Any kind of visual description of the prophet is forbidden in Islam.

The assassination further exacerbated tensions between Macron and the Muslim world, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggesting that the French president undergo mental checks after Macron had described Islam as a religion in crisis globally.

Macron said: When I decided to attack radical Islam my words were distorted. From the Muslim Brotherhood, quite widely, but also from Turkey, which has the ability to influence many public opinion, including sub-Saharan Africa.

Reiterating a position that has caused great controversy in France and beyond in recent months, he added: I am not attacking Islam, I am attacking Islamic terrorism.

Rising tensions

Tensions between France and Turkey have risen to new levels during a series of disputes in recent months, including Syria, Libya, the eastern Mediterranean and now France’s crackdown on radical Islam.

France has called for a total overhaul of European Union relations with Turkey, which under Erdogan in recent years has significantly built its presence and influence in Africa.

Russia has also played an increasingly active role in Africa, with analysts pointing to the presence in some countries of the pro-Kremlin mercenary group Wagner.

In the extensive interview, Macron also ruled out negotiations with armed groups in the Sahel region of Africa, where France has deployed a force of thousands.

We do not talk to terrorists. We fight, Macron said, as debates intensify in France and Africa over the long-term strategy of its military force Operation Barkhane.

He said France could talk to various political groups and other groups, but not to armed groups which continue to kill civilians and soldiers, including our soldiers.

Macron in Guinea

Macron also accused Guinean President Alpha Conde of holding a referendum on constitutional changes just to be able to retain power, adding that the situation in the country was serious after the post-election unrest.

Fisht for that reason I have not yet sent him a congratulatory letter, Macron said.

Macron added that he hoped to visit Rwanda in 2021 despite ongoing tensions with the country and its President Paul Kagame over the 1994 genocide.



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