Turkey which has deployed troops to northern Syria says if France steps up its military presence in the Arab country, it will amount to an “invasion.”
“If France takes any steps regarding its military presence in northern Syria, this would be an illegitimate step that would go against international law and in fact, it would be an invasion,” Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli said Saturday.
Turkey sent troops to the northern Syrian region of Afrin on January 20 to force out Kurdish militants, known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it suspects of having ties with anti-Ankara separatists.
France, which has criticized Ankara over the offensive, operates in Syria as part of the so-called US coalition.
French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a delegation of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has the YPG as its backbone, at the Elysee Palace on March 29.
On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan railed against Paris. “France, you are abetting terrorism, supporting it by then hosting them at the Elysee Palace,” he said.
“Especially, if they intend to support terror group elements or give direct or indirect protection with armed forces, this would be a really calamitous step,” Canikli said during a visit to the northeastern province of Giresun.
After the Paris meeting, Kurdish officials said France was planning to send new troops to the city of Manbij, also in northern Syria.
Paris has also threatened to attack Syria if it was established that Damascus had deployed chemical weapons in its military operation, an accusation strongly rejected by the Syrian government.
Turkey, which has pushed the YPG out of Afrin, has also threatened to extend its operation to Manbij, which hosts American forces.
Ankara has further locked horns with Washington on several occasions over the latter’s providing arms, training, and logistical support to the Kurds.