Turkey slams French offer for mediation with Kurdish militia

Turkey slams French offer for mediation with Kurdish militia
Turkish officials were angered by NATO ally France's decision to hold talks with the Kurdish SDF, which Ankara considers a terror group.
2 min read
30 March, 2018
Erdogan and Macron at a joint press conference in Paris [Getty]
Turkey turned down on Friday a French offer to mediate talks with the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

"We reject any efforts to promote 'dialogue', 'contact' or 'mediation' between Turkey and those terrorist organisations," wrote Ibrahim Kalin, presidential spokesman, on Twitter.

"Countries which we regard as friends and allies must display an open and clear stance against all kinds of terror, instead of taking steps which amount to legitimising terror structures," he added, without specifically naming France.

"Turkey's position on PKK/PYD/YPG, which seeks to legitimise itself as SDF, is perfectly clear," Kalin added.  

On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron said he hoped "a dialogue" could be reached between the SDF and Turkey after he met with a delegation of Syrian and Arab fighters.

The SDF is dominated by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers to be a terror group and the Syrian arm of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Turkey has been in armed conflict with the PKK since 1984.

Ankara launched Operation Olive Branch on January 20 against the YPG in the northern Syrian region of Afrin. Turkey has warned that it could extend its military operation to other Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria. 

About 250,000 people have fled Afrin since the offensive began two months ago, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Dozens of civilians and around 1,500 Kurdish fighters have been killed in the fighting.

During Thursday's meeting with the Syrian and Arab delegation, Macron acknowledged the "role of the SDF in the fight against [Islamic State]".

The SDF is a key partner for France and the US, both of which are Turkey's NATO allies, in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria. 

A Kurdish official told Reuters after Thursday's meeting that Macron had promised to send more troops to northern Syria. On Friday, in what appeared to be a denial, French officials said they do not intend to launch any operations outside the international coalition's fight against IS.

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