BEIRUT (Dispatches) – Senior Turkish officials have mocked French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent visit to Lebanon as a sign of colonialism and described him as "spoiled adolescent” who is trying to prove himself to the world, in remarks published on Tuesday.
Macron made a high-profile visit to the Lebanese capital on Thursday in the wake of a deadly blast in Beirut’s port that has killed at least 160, injured some 5,000 and left the city devastated.
During that trip, when he was mobbed by crowds asking him for assistance, the French president accused regional countries such as Turkey of seeking to promote their interests in Lebanon at the expense of the country.
"If France doesn’t play its role, Iranians, Turks and Saudis will interfere with Lebanese domestic affairs, whose economic and geopolitical interests are likely to be to the detriment of the Lebanese,” he reportedly said last week.
France carved Lebanon out of Syria in 1920 and ruled it from the end of the First Word War until 1943. Macron on Thursday promised to create a "new political pact” for Lebanon, and return to the country on 1 September to mark its centenary.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay, who visited Lebanon over the weekend to show support with Lebanese, told Sabah newspaper that Ankara wouldn’t determine its policies according to Macron’s wishes.
"It is actually France that interferes with Lebanese domestic politics,” he said. "We shouldn’t take Macron too seriously. He is like a spoiled child in the region.”
Speaking to the same newspaper, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said France considers the whole region as an arena of competition.
"[Macron’s] remarks are reminiscent of France’s former colonial mentality. He says he will visit [Beirut] once again to inspect the expenditure,” Cavusoglu said.
Relations between Turkey and France have been fraught recently due to regional disagreements over Libya.
Both Oktay and Cavusoglu visited a neighborhood in Beirut. They were welcomed by hundreds carrying Turkish flags.
Oktay said Turkey was ready to help reconstruct Beirut port, and Turkish ports were at Lebanese disposal.
Meanwhile, a United Nations report said on Tuesday the World Food Programme (WFP) will send 50,000 tonnes of wheat flour to Lebanon after last week’s blast at Beirut’s port destroyed its only silo with all the private stocks held there.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report said the flour would be sent "to stabilize the national supply and ensure there is no food shortage in the country”.
A Reuters report on Friday said Lebanon’s government held no strategic stockpile of grain before the explosion and all privately held stocks at the country’s only grain silo were destroyed.
Current flour reserves in Lebanon were estimated to cover market needs for six weeks.
Damage at the port from the blast is under assessment and most traffic is being diverted to Tripoli, which has only about a third of Beirut’s capacity.
The UN report said the Beirut port was expected to remain inoperable for at least a month.