Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared to hit the presidential campaign in France on Saturday urging the country’s Turkish community to vote in the upcoming poll.
Despite not yet officially declaring his candidacy, Erdogan called on supporters in the French city of Lyon to obtain dual citizenship.
On Europe, Erdogan also insisted Turkey remain a key partner.
‘‘The EU economy needs Turkey. It needs Turkey because of Turkey’s young and dynamic population. Turkey is not a country that can wait forever,’‘ the Turkish prime minister said.
Some 620,000 Turks live in France and the visit is one of a number of rallies being held by the Turkish premier as he tours Europe ahead of the vote in August.
From Lyon euronews correspondent Devrim Hacısalihoğlu said: ‘‘Addressing Lyon’s Turkish community Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told the large crowd he would officially announce his Presidential candidature towards the end of the month. He also urged France’s large Turkish population to take part in the upcoming elections.’‘
Erdogan’s visit, however, did not pass without controversy.
Several hundred pro-democracy protesters and minority groups gathered in Lyon city centre demanding more democratic freedom in Turkey.
“We are against mandatory ‘religious lessons’ in schools being imposed. We want to live in a secular country, a secular republic,” said one protester.
“I would like to live in a free country, a free Turkey. A country where you have democracy, socialism and where all Turks live equally together,” said another.
Erdogan’s visit comes at a time of improved relations between France and Turkey, which soured dramatically under ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy amid a row over the World War One killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks.