French President Emmanuel Macron Monday said he told President Erdogan "very clearly" that "France's policy is not to attack any religion."
Speaking at a news conference after meeting with Turkish President Erdogan at the NATO summit in Brussels, Macron said: "In France, several million of our fellow citizens believe in Islam, practice it daily. It is not the state's business".
"Simply what is required of them is to respect the laws and rules of the Republic absolutely," he added.
"The government of France, of the French Nation, is fighting on the one hand against all forms of terrorism, including Islamist terrorism. And on the other hand (we have) in fact strengthened our policy of fighting against extremist groups who use and deform religion to get some of our fellow citizens out of the Republic and respect for these laws," he told reporters.
Macron has drawn criticism from Muslims across the world after his controversial remarks on Islam. Last year on Oct. 2, Macron announced a controversial plan to tackle what he calls "Islamic separatism" in France, claiming that the faith of Islam is in "crisis" all over the world and promising to "free Islam in France from foreign influences."
He later defended blasphemous cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, saying France would "not give up our cartoons" after the brutal murder of high school teacher Samuel Paty, who showed provocative caricatures in a class. Macron's stance has led to international condemnations, protests and calls to boycott French-made products, including from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In the news conference, Macron also said that he and Erdogan discussed the situation in Syria and Libya at the meeting, which he said was in a "peaceful atmosphere."
Turkey and France agreed to work on the withdrawal of foreign mercenaries in Libya, he added.
"We have found clear points of convergence to preserve the ceasefire, to hold the election objectives to December 24 (...) and to work together to withdraw foreign fighters and mercenaries initially," the French president said, citing an "important step forward."
"The atmosphere of this meeting was a peaceful one, and without any formulated apology, or even that any apology could be requested on either side, there was a clear desire to re-engage work," he added.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.