Turkey angrily rejects French offer to mediate with Syrian Kurds
Erdogan warns Macron of overstepping ‘his limits’ by hosting a meeting
aid in Afrin, which the Turkish army and its Syrian opposition allies claimed last week to control after driving out YPG forces. Activists said 280 people were killed and more than a quarter of a million civilians have fled Afrin, but this was denied by Ankara.
Macron met for the first time on Thursday with an SDF delegation that included the YPG, its political arm the PYD, and Christian and Arab officials from northern Syria.
Erdogan said that those “who go to bed with terrorists, or even host them in their palaces, will sooner or later understand the mistake they’re making.” He also said that Macron made “bizarre” comments during a phone conversation last week that forced Erdogan to raise his voice and respond with a “high frequency.”
Paris denied on Friday that it would dispatch troops to northern Syria following earlier speculation. The Elysee statement said: “France does not foresee any new military operation on the ground in northern Syria outside the anti-Daesh international coalition.”
Erdogan has said that Turkey is preparing to extend operations along hundreds of miles of border with Syria, raising tensions with the US, which has 2,000 soldiers stationed in northern Syrian alongside the SDF, including in the town of Manbij.
US President Donald Trump appeared on Thursday to signal the withdrawal “very soon” of US troops from Syria, taking the Pentagon and State Department by surprise. US Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Thursday: “The Turkish actions in northern Syria — let me be specific here — Afrin area have distracted the (Syrian Democratic Forces) from the fight going against the remnants of ISIS.”
Turkish analysts did not think France would substitute its soldiers should the US pull out. “Under such tense security circumstances for the region, France cannot preserve the security of its own soldiers in Manbij,” Oytun Orhan, a Syria analyst at the Ankara-based think tank ORSAM, told Arab News.
He interpreted the French stance as wanting to ensure the YPG did not release any Daesh-linked French fighters. “France does not want that these terrorists released by the YPG for fear they can return home and wage terror attacks,” he said.
Turkey will host a tripartite summit on Syria with Russia and Iran next week.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses French President Emmanuel Macron of overstepping ‘his limits’ and going ‘over his head.’ (File/AFP)