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Middle East

Turkey rebuffs French mediation offer with Kurdish militia

media Turkish forces and Free Syrian Army are deployed in Afrin, Syria March 18, 2018 Reuters/路透社

Turkey on Friday rejected a French offer to mediate with the Syrian Democratic Forces which is dominated by a Kurdish militia blacklisted by Ankara, a presidential spokesman said.

French President Emmanuel Macron extended an offer to facilitate dialogue between the two sides on Thursday night after he met a delegation of Kurdish and Arab fighters.

But Turkey dismissed it out of hand in a move likely to further fuel tension with Paris, which has expressed clear concerns over an ongoing Turkish military operation in northern Syria.

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

Macron said he hoped “a dialogue” could be established between the two sides with help from Paris and the international community.

The backbone of the SDF is the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), a militia group which has been driven out of its Afrin stronghold by the Turkish offensive.

The YPG is the military wing of the main Syrian Kurdish political movement, the Democratic Union Party (PYD).

The Turkish military began its offensive against the YPG in January, targeting the group over its ties with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has waged an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984 and which Ankara blacklists as a terror group.

France ‘cooperating with terror’

“Turkey’s position on PKK/PYD/YPG, which seeks to legitimise itself as SDF, is perfectly clear,” Kalin said, warning Paris against taking any steps which could be construed as legitimising terror groups.

“The countries we consider friends and allies must take a clear stand against all forms of terrorism,” he said.

“The various names and disguises cannot hide the true identity of the terrorist organisation.”

Both France and the United States have worked closely with YPG fighters in the battle against Islamic State jihadists in Syria.

During Thursday’s talks, Macron acknowledged the “role of the SDF in the fight against Daesh”, the Elysee said using an Arabic acronym for IS.

Erdogan: France is wrong

But his remarks were not well received by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said he was “extremely saddened by France’s... wrong stance on this issue.”

Macron and Erdogan have spoken several times on the phone since Turkey’s operation began on January 20.

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag took a much tougher line, lashing out at France and warning that any country cooperating with “terrorists” would be on Turkey’s radar.

“France’s assurance of support for PYD/YPG/YPJ terror organisations is clear cooperation and solidarity with terror groups attacking Turkey,” wrote Bozdag on Twitter.

YPJ is the women’s force within the YPG.

A sharp warning

“Those who cooperate with terror groups against Turkey ... and attack Turkey alongside terrorists will get the same treatment that we inflict upon those terrorists,” said Bozdag, who is also the government spokesman.

“They will become Turkey’s target.”

Bozdag said he hoped France would not take such an “irrational step”.

About 10 days into the Turkish operation in Syria, Macron had incensed Turkish officials by saying France would have a “real problem” if the campaign turned out to be an “invasion operation”.

The comments drew a sharp response from Turkish authorities, saying that Turkey has never been “colonialist” in its history, urging Paris to look at its own past.

On March 18, Turkish forces and their rebel allies took full control of Afrin, with the YPG largely withdrawing without a fight.

With AFP

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