Turkey blasts France, US over Syria Afrin ceasefire suggestion

Turkey blasts France, US over Syria Afrin ceasefire suggestion
The US and France said that the 30-day UN ceasefire in Syria applies to Turkey's operation against the Kurdish YPG militia in Afrin.
2 min read
28 February, 2018
Macron and Erdogan during a press conference in Paris [Getty]

Turkey slammed France and the US Wednesday for suggesting a 30-day UN ceasefire in Syria should apply to areas of Ankara's military operations in northern Syria, accusing Paris of a "lack of candour".

Turkey has embarked on an offensive against Kurdish forces in the area of Afrin, close to the Turkish border.

A UN-sponsored Syria ceasefire has been applied - but not respected - to Eastern Ghouta, where Damascus forces have launched a devastating assault on the opposition enclave. The US and France believe the truce should also cover the Afrin region.

Ankara had welcomed the 30-day UN ceasefire but has repeatedly insisted that ceasefire will not apply to its month-long operation against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin.

The UN Security Council agreed on Saturday to a 30-day nationwide ceasefire, prompted by the deadly bombardment of Eastern Ghouta, that has left almost 600 dead since 18 February.

The ceasefire in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta has yet to be implemented.

French President Emmanuel Macron told his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in telephone talks Monday the ceasefire must "includ[e] Afrin".

The Turkish foreign ministry charged Paris with releasing a false read-out of the conversation between the two heads of states.

It said Turkey had informed the French authorities that their statement showed a "lack of candour".

In Washington, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert also insisted that the ceasefire should apply to Afrin.

"Turkey is more than welcome to go back and read the exact text of this UN Security Council resolution, and I would suggest that they do so," she said.

Nauert argued that only campaigns against Islamic State group fighters, formerly al-Qaeda-linked elements within the Tahrir al-Sham armed coalition, and other hardline factions should be exempted from the ceasefire.

This clause is due to amendments to get Russia to agree to the ceasefire and not exercise its security council veto.

In a separate statement, the Turkish foreign ministry said its campaign in Afrin was against "terrorists".

Ankara sees the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Turkish authorities have been in armed battles with for over three decades.

The PKK is banned in Turkey, and the US and European Union consider it to be a terror group.