France's Macron accuses Turkey of working with Islamic State group proxies

France's Macron accuses Turkey of working with Islamic State group proxies
French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have been embroiled in a war of words over Ankara's roles in NATO and Syria.
2 min read
03 December, 2019
Turkish President Erdogan called Macron 'brain dead' last week [Getty]
French President Emmanuel Macron has accused Turkey of working with Islamic State group proxies and demanded Ankara clarify any ambiguities during this week's NATO summit.

"The common enemy today is the terrorist groups. I'm sorry to say, we don't have the same definition of terrorism around the table," Macron told reporters on Tuesday, at a news conference on the sidelines of the NATO summit.

"When I look at Turkey they are fighting against those who fought with us shoulder to shoulder against ISIS [Islamic State] and sometimes they work with ISIS proxies."

Turkey invaded northeastern Syria in early October, ostensibly to push back the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) - a key ally of Western states in the fight against IS - from its borders and create a "safe zone" to be populated by Syrian refugees.

Some critics of the operation have deemed Turkey's Syrian proxies extremists or even IS members.

Macron's comments on Tuesday marked the latest in an ongoing war of words between the French leader and his Turkish counterpart.

France summoned the Turkish ambassador last week to seek explanations after his leader described French President Emmanuel Macron as "brain dead".

Tensions have mounted over Turkey's role within the trans-Atlantic defense alliance since Ankara launched its controversial military operation against Kurdish-led forces in northeast Syria last month. Turkey also raised concerns among NATO allies earlier this year with its purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems.

Macron, complaining of a US leadership vacuum, recently lamented the "brain death" of NATO and said the allies needed a "wake-up call". 

"I respect the security interests of our Turkish ally ... but one can't say that we are allies and demand solidarity, and on the other hand, present allies with a fait accompli by a military intervention which jeopardises the action of the coalition against IS," Macron said at a meeting with the NATO chief, Jens Stoltenberg.

The comments triggered anger from Turkey's leadership, prompting Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to slam Macron as a "sponsor of terrorism" over his support for the Kurdish-led forces, which Ankara deems a terrorist organisation.

President Erdogan then shot back on Friday: "You should get checked whether you're brain dead."

"Kicking Turkey out of NATO or not, how is that up to you? Do you have the authority to make such a decision?" he asked, characterising Macron as "inexperienced."

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