France becomes Turkey’s newest bugbear as Kurds court Macron

27 December 2018

Turkey’s suspicions over purported Western plans in Syria have shown no signs of abating even after President Donald Trump announced he had ordered US troops to withdraw and pledged “a slow and highly coordinated” pullout in keeping with Ankara’s demands.

The new focus of Turkish ire is France, whose president, Emmanuel Macron, has lashed out at Trump’s decision, saying “an ally should be dependable.” The country could play a bridging role between the Kurds, Moscow and Washington that could upset Turkish plans or so many Kurds hope.

Macron was referring to the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), America’s top ally in the fight against the Islamic State and the target of Turkey’s military threats. France has said it will keep an unspecified number of its special operation forces in the Kurdish-controlled zone in northern Syria because, contrary to Trump’s claims, IS has not been defeated. France has been repeatedly targeted by IS and is especially worried about the continued presence of French and other European jihadists in Syria. The militants claimed responsibility for the Dec. 11 shooting at a Christmas market in Strasbourg in which three people were killed and 11 others wounded.

Turkey has long insisted that the jihadis have been vanquished and that they are being used as a pretext for the US-led coalition to protect the Syrian Kurds as they set up their “terror statelet.” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu grumbled that France’s stance would “help neither France nor the terrorists” and that Turkey remained determined to intervene east of the Euphrates River in pursuit of the YPG, which Ankara contends is a terror outfit on par with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

In a further sign of Ankara’s displeasure, the state-run Anadolu news agency commented on France’s “intentions to continue supporting the YPG/PKK terrorist group” today, asserting that it had “nine military sites in Syria” but that with “only 200 troops” on the ground, “France lacks the capacity to provide the terrorist group with the promised support.”

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