France-Turkey tensions: Ankara vows 'firm' response to French ban on Turkish group

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Turkey vowed on Wednesday to deliver a firm response to France's decision to disband the Turkish ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves group linked to a top ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The far-right group is seen as a wing of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which is allied with Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the Turkish parliament.

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Erdogan has been feuding bitterly with French President Emmanuel Macron on a number of geopolitical flashpoints and, more recently, France's fight against "radical Islam."

The Turkish foreign ministry said the French government had to "protect the freedom of assembly and expression of Turks in France".

"We will respond in the firmest way possible to this decision," it said.

The French cabinet formally disbanded the local offshoot of the group after a memorial centre to mass killings of Armenians during World War I was defaced at the weekend with graffiti including the name of the Grey Wolves.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said in a tweet announcing the group's dissolution that it "incites discrimination and hatred and is implicated in violent actions".

The Grey Wolves was a nickname given to members of a fringe Turkish movement that developed in the 1960s and 70s.

Tied closely to the MHP, it advocated radical ideas and used violence in the 1980s against leftist activists and ethnic minorities.

In its statement, the Turkish foreign ministry denied the very existence of the group, saying France was "dealing with an imaginary formation".

It added that wolves were a common symbol used in many countries and had no legal status as such.

But it defended Turks' freedom of expression in France, and accused the French government of ignoring "incitements, threats and attacks" against Turks in France.

France's Grey Wolves ban came against the backdrop of sharp tension between the country's Armenian and Turkish communities over the flaring conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Turkey has strongly backed its ally Baku in the fighting over the region that is part of Azerbaijan but has been controlled by ethnic Armenian separatists since a 1990s war claimed 30,000 lives.

Four people were wounded outside Lyon last week in clashes between suspected Turkish nationalists and Armenians protesting against Azerbaijan's military offensive.

Armenians have long campaigned for the mass killings of their ancestors in the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to be recognized as genocide.

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