Blasting the French magazine Charlie Hebdo's offensive cartoons, the Turkish president said on Wednesday that hostility towards Islam is "spreading like cancer" in Europe.
"Unfortunately, we are going through a period in which the hostility towards Islam, Muslims and disrespect to the Prophet Muhammad is spreading like cancer, especially among the leaders in Europe," Erdogan told his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party's parliamentary group.
Pointing out the rising offensive attitudes against Islam and Muslims, Erdogan said that they are being carried out under the guise of freedom of expression.
"No Muslim can be a terrorist, nor can any terrorist be a Muslim because "a terrorist is a black-hearted, bloody murderer who does not hesitate to kill innocents to achieve his own goals," he said.
On the recent publication of Charlie Hebdo which has published "loathsome so-called cartoons" purportedly of Erdogan after insulting Islam and Muslims, the Turkish leader said he believes that "enemies of Islam and Turkey will get drown in a swamp of hate which they have entered for the sake of freedom. That are the signs of Europe's return to its barbaric era."
'I did not look at cartoons'
Erdogan added that he even did not look at the so-called cartoon since he considered it disgraceful to give credit to such immoral publications even just to see what they did: "What am I? There is no need that I say anything about these dishonorable people who insult my beloved prophet, the most one beloved."
On Wednesday, prosecutors in the capital Ankara launched criminal probe into the magazine over insulting content which was followed by criminal complaint filed by Erdogan.
"It is a matter of honor for us to stand sincerely against the attacks targeting our prophet, who honored Mecca, Medina, Asia, Africa, Europe, the whole world, all the world and all the times [...] We would die not the day we gave our last breath, but the day when we kept silent and unresponsive in the face of these attacks," he added.
"France and Europe in general do not deserve these vicious, provocative, ugly, hateful policies of [French President Emmanuel] Macron and those with the same mentality," he said, referring to French president's remarks encouraging hostility towards Islam.
Erdogan also called on Europeans to take an initiative against this dangerous trend to have a bright future for themselves and their children.
Drawing to Macron's visit to Lebanon following the massive explosion at the Port of Beirut in August, Erdogan reiterated that Macron was not welcomed by Lebanese people, which he said was a sign that the French president could not achieve his goals in that country.
From 'separatism' to insulting cartoons
Following the the recent publication of insulting contents by Charlie Hebdo, Macron has defended blasphemous cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, saying France would "not give up our cartoons," causing outrage across the Muslim world.
Earlier this month, Macron accused French Muslims of "separatism" and claimed Islam is "a religion in crisis all over the world."
Tensions further escalated following the murder of a French school teacher after he showed his students cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad during one of his classes on freedom of expression.
Insulting cartoons by Charlie Hebdo were also projected on buildings in a few cities.
Earlier this year, the magazine republished cartoons insulting Islam and Prophet Muhammad.
Several Arab countries as well as Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan have condemned Macron's attitude toward Muslims and Islam, with Erdogan saying the French leader needs "mental treatment."
With calls to boycott French products circulating online in many countries, Erdogan has urged a boycott by Turkish consumers as well.
'Turkey capable of clearing Syria of terror groups'
Also addressing the latest situation in Syria, Erdogan said: "The Syrian people pay the price of the strategy games of forces coming from outside the region as well as the regime and the terrorist groups under foreign forces' control with their blood and lives."
He underscored that Turkey cannot sit back and watch this hypocrisy.
"Turkey's power is enough to rid Syria of all terror groups," he said, reiterating that Turkey has no design on anyone's territory since its only aim is "to safeguard own security and to ensure the peace and well-being of the Syrian people."
Mentioning the recent airstrike in northwestern Syria, Erdogan said that Russian attacks on Syrian National Army's training center is a sign that lasting peace not desired in region.
"No one can deny that our operations Euphrates Shield, Olive Branch, Peace Spring, and Spring Shield, as well as our firm stance in Idlib, are based on concrete security concerns, not just an excuse or delusion," he added.
He went on saying that the presence of the terror groups in areas along the Syrian border that do not fall under Turkey's control and their threat to Turkey is still growing despite all the promises made.
"Again, I repeat that if the promises are not fulfilled, we have legitimate cause to act whenever we need to eliminate all terrorists from the areas we have identified," Erdogan added.
Since 2016, Turkey has launched a trio of successful anti-terror operations across its border in northern Syria to prevent the formation of a terror corridor and to enable the peaceful settlement of residents: Euphrates Shield (2016), Olive Branch (2018), and Peace Spring (2019).
Phone call with Putin over Upper Karabakh
Mentioning his efforts for the solution of the Upper Karabakh dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Erdogan said he had a phone talk with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
"We had a contact with Putin. We said let's put an end to this [issue] in the Caucasus. We can solve this together," he said.
The Turkish leader said he suggested a meeting between Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and another meeting with himself and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
"Let's take a sincere step on this issue. We should finish this," Erdogan said of his phone conversation with Putin, which he said was "a nice talk."
Relations between the two former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh, an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan.
New clashes erupted on Sept. 27, and since then Armenia has repeatedly attacked Azerbaijani civilians and forces, even violating three humanitarian cease-fires since Oct. 10.
Multiple UN resolutions demand the withdrawal of the occupying forces.
Turkey has steadfastly supported Azerbaijan in the conflict, stressing its right to regain illegally occupied land, and decried Armenian forces breaking cease-fires and attacking innocent civilians.
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