French President Emmanuel Macron has promised support for US-backed Kurdish militants in northern Syria, which has been the target of a Turkish offensive, prompting Ankara to angrily slam the offer as “clear support for terrorists.”
For the first time since entering the Elysee Palace, Macron on Thursday hosted a delegation of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of militias in northern and eastern Syria which is largely dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
“The president … paid tribute to the sacrifices and the determining role of the SDF in the fight against Daesh,” Macron’s office said in a statement.
“He assured the SDF of France’s support for the stabilization of the security zone in the northeast of Syria, within the framework of an inclusive and balanced governance, to prevent any resurgence of” Daesh, the statement added.
Also present at the meeting were representatives of Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), commonly referred to as the YPG’s political wing, as well as some Arab and Christian figures.
Khaled Eissa, a PYD member representing the northern Syria region in Paris, said the French head of state had promised to deploy more ground troops to the area while also providing humanitarian assistance and pushing for a diplomatic solution.
“There will be reinforcements to help secure from attacks by Islamic State (Daesh) and stop a foreign aggression,” he said, referring to Turkey and its ongoing military operation against Kurdish groups inside Syria’s northern territory of Afrin.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan authorized the intervention in January, calling for Afrin to be cleared of YPG “terrorists.”
Ankara sees the Kurdish militia as the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.
Just like the United States, France has provided YPG-led militants with arms and training. The European country has also deployed dozens of its special forces to the region, infuriating Turkey.
Macron’s office refused to comment on whether he was sending troops to Syria but said the president was ready to help settle differences between Ankara and the SDF.
Turkey warns France
Macron’s remarks drew an angry reaction from Ankara, with Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag saying Friday that the promise to back the Kurds amounts to support for and legitimization of terrorist groups.
“Those who enter into cooperation and solidarity with terror groups against Turkey…will, like the terrorists, become a target of Turkey,” Bozdag wrote on Twitter. “We hope France does not take such an irrational step.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also denounced France’s stance as “completely wrong.”
Ankara, he added, has no intention of harming soldiers of allies countries deployed to northern Syria, but that it could not allow militants to roam freely near the Turkish border.
Erdogan further said the Turkish military has begun more operations to drive the militants out of northern Syria’s Ayn al-Arab, Ras al-Ain and Tel Abyad regions up to the Iraqi border.
Turkey will achieve high economic growth in 2018 and will keep its door “wide open” to international investors, said the Turkish leader, adding, “I have bad news for those trying to use exchange rates as bogeymen to scare our people.”
The country “will once again thwart the games being played against it with the high growth it will reach in 2018,” he said.
The French leader’s mediation offer also fell on cold shoulders in Ankara as it swiftly turned down any dialog.
“We reject any efforts to promote ‘dialog,’ ‘contact’ or ‘mediation’ between Turkey and those terrorist organizations,” Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesperson Erdogan, said in a Twitter.