Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan Reuters

France recalled its ambassador to Turkey for consultations on Saturday after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said President Emmanuel Macron needed “mental health treatment” and made other comments that the French government described as unacceptably rude, The Associated Press reported.

Erdogan questioned his French counterpart's mental condition while criticizing Macron’s attitude toward Islam and Muslims. His remarks at a local party congress were an apparent response to statements Macron made this month about problems created by radical Muslims in France who practice what the French leader termed “Islamist separatism.”“What is the problem of this person called Macron with Islam and Muslims?” Erdogan asked rhetorically during a meeting of his Justice and Development party in the central Anatolian 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?” the Turkish leader continued.

The French presidency reacted hours later with a statement that said, “Excess and rudeness are not a method” and added, “We are not accepting insults.”

Using unusually strong language, the French presidency said, “We demand Erdogan to change his policy, which is dangerous in all aspects.”

The presidency pointed out that Erdogan, a devout Muslim, did not offer condolences following the beheading near Paris last week of a teacher who had shown in class some caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

French authorities are investigating the killing as an Islamist terror attack. Macron said following the murder that actions against Islamist extremism will be "intensified".

Tensions between France and Turkey have intensified in recent months over issues that include the fighting in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, a region within Azerbaijan that is controlled by ethnic Armenian separatists.

Erdogan has gotten in trouble with Western countries in the past. In 2017, Turkey banned the Dutch ambassador to Ankara and suspended high-level political contacts with the Netherlands amid a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

US-Turkey ties have also been strained due to, among others, Turkey’s cross-border assault against Kurdish fighters in Syria last year as well as its purchase of the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system.

During the operation in Syria, US President Donald Trump sent an undiplomatic letter to Erdogan urging him to avoid too much bloodshed.

Later, however, Trump downplayed the tensions with Turkey and told Erdogan that he is a "fan."