Turkey warns France 'no benefit' in protecting Kurd militia

Turkey warns France 'no benefit' in protecting Kurd militia
Turkey's foreign minister warned France would not gain in any way by retaining forces to protect a Kurdish militia in Syria.
3 min read
25 December, 2018
Macron has slammed the US decision to withdraw as unreliable [Getty]

France will not gain in any way by retaining forces to protect a Kurdish militia in Syria, Turkey's foreign minister said on Tuesday, after Paris announced it would maintain a presence despite an imminent US withdrawal.

"If France is staying to contribute to Syria's future, great, but if they are doing this to protect the (militia), this will bring no benefit to anyone," Mevlut Cavusoglu said, according to Hurriyet daily, in comments also partially carried by the state news agency Anadolu.

The comments came after Washington announced its decision to pull out 2,000 of its ground forces from Syria, stunning most allies including France. But the move was greeted with approval by Turkey, which will now have a freer rein to target Kurdish fighters from the US-backed People's Protection Units (YPG).

Turkey views the YPG militia as a sister "terrorist" organisation of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984. The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara, the US and the European Union.

Last week, US President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of US ground forces that had been in Syria to provide training to the YPG under the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance battling against the Islamic State (IS) group.

The shock move put allies on the backfoot, with French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday saying "an ally must be reliable”.

"To be an ally is to fight shoulder to shoulder," Macron said, adding that France was doing just that in Chad against al-Qaeda and other extremist groups.

"An ally must be reliable, to coordinate with its other allies," he said.

Macron also paid tribute to Defence Secretary James Mattis who resigned this week over Trump's announcement of a Syrian pull-out.

"I want here to pay tribute to General Mattis... for a year we have seen how he was a reliable partner," Macron said at a news conference with his Chadian counterpart Idriss Deby.

In a sign of the growing diplomatic rift between the two leaders, Macron said "I deeply regret the decision" by Trump to pullout US troops.

Cavusoglu hit out at France's "support" of the YPG, which he said was "no secret" as he slammed French officials' meetings with leaders of the SDF's political wing last week.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey will intervene in the coming months against IS and the YPG.

Cavusoglu said Turkey has "the power to neutralise (IS) alone" amid fears that a US pull-out will hurt the fight against IS.

Critics say thousands of IS members are still in Syria and could pose a threat with some analysts concerned the withdrawal could lead to a resurgence of IS.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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