June 28, 2011 - 13:31 AMT
French presidential hopeful says Turks ‘are very close’ to him

The youngest contender for the French presidency in 2012 has said he is already well-acquainted with Turkey thanks to family roots that go back to eastern Turkey.

Maxime Verner’s mother has Armenian roots in the eastern province of Erzurum, while the 21-year-old candidate’s father is ethnic French.

“I know Turkey very well; I am interested [in Turkish] history also. I feel [that the] Turks are very close to me. They are open-minded. I want to build a bridge between Turkey and other countries. I would like to tell them that the world of tomorrow is ours. We have responsibilities to conquer and obtain solidarity,” Verner said in an interview with Hürriyet Daily News.

“I am not expecting any support [from] the French-Armenian community; I am French. But lots of Armenians and Turks do support me,” Verner said.

The presidential candidate also said he attended Istanbul’s Galatasaray University as an exchange student recently.

Verner, whose father was a taxi driver, said his interest in politics began while he was working in his father’s cab in the village where he was born. “Today, I do not belong to any party; my family has never belonged to any [parties either.] I became popular [through the support of] the working class,” he said.

“I want to change the future, the young generations, the long-term perspectives, the world. I want to help France open itself to the world. I would like to free society where anything is possible for anyone. I believe emotions can change the world,” he said and added that he made extensive use of modern technology during election campaigns.

Verner also said he was a member of the “Association des Jeunes de France” (The Association for the French Youth) and said the youth wanted to earn the trust of the French people.

“We want to elucidate [people on] how great the potential of young people is and what we can do,” he said.