Autocratic Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday slammed France after French President Emmanuel Macron offered to mediate between Turkey and the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), calling on Paris to “know your place.”
“We do not need a mediator. Since when has Turkey been sitting at a table with terrorist organizations? Where did you get this from? You can sit at the table with terrorist organizations. But Turkey fights against terrorist organizations in places like Afrin,” Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan also threatened France over terror strikes, saying an attack may come at any time, underlining that he was not joking. Erdoğan said he hopes the French won’t ask for Turkey’s help when terrorists come back home from Syria and Iraq.
Erdoğan’s spokesperson İbrahim Kalın also firmly rejected Macron’s bid to mediate between the Turkish government and the SDF while calling on Paris to take a clear stance against all of forms of terror.
“Turkey’s position on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party/Democratic Union Party/People’s Protection Units [PKK/PYD/YPG], which seeks to legitimize itself as the SDF, is perfectly clear. We reject any efforts to promote ‘dialogue,’ ‘contact’ or ‘mediation’ between Turkey and those terrorist organizations,” Kalın tweeted early on Friday.
“Instead of taking steps that could be construed as legitimizing terrorist organizations, the countries we consider friends and allies must take a clear stance against all forms of terrorism. The various names and disguises cannot hide the true identity of the terrorist organization,” Kalın said in response to the Elysée Palace.
In the meantime, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu spoke on the phone with his French counterpart, Jean Yves Le Drian, following Macron’s meeting with representatives of Syrian Kurdish groups.
France has offered to mediate between Turkey and the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces and assured the SDF of Paris’ support in stabilizing northern Syria, President Macron’s office said on Thursday.
Speaking after Macron met a delegation from northern Syria that included the Kurdish YPG militia, Khaled Eissa, a Kurdish official based in Paris, said Macron had promised to send French troops to Manbij to support the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and dissuade Turkey from advancing on the town.
Speaking to Reuters after the meeting with Macron, Eissa, a Democratic Union Party (PYD) member who represents northern Syria in Paris, said Macron had promised to send more troops to the area, provide humanitarian assistance and push a diplomatic solution. “There will be reinforcements to help secure from attacks by Islamic State and stop a foreign aggression,” he said, referring to Turkey. “It’s message that this irresponsible action from the Islamists in Ankara stops.”
The French presidency declined to comment on whether Paris was sending troops. However, it said in the statement that Macron was offering to mediate between the two sides given that the SDF had distanced itself from the PKK.
“Acknowledging the commitment of the SDF to have no operational link with this terrorist group … he [Macron] hopes that a dialogue could be established between the [SDF] and Turkey with France and the international community’s help,” it said.
France does not anticipate launching any military operations in northern Syria that fall outside the international coalition’s fight against ISIL, a French presidency source said on Friday.
“The president … paid tribute to the sacrifices and the determining role of the SDF in the fight against ISIL,” Macron’s office said in a statement. “He assured the SDF of France’s support for the stabilization of the security zone in the north-east of Syria, within the framework of an inclusive and balanced governance, to prevent any resurgence of ISIL.”
Former president Francois Hollande, who originally approved of French support for the Kurds, on March 23 bemoaned Macron’s Syria policy, in particular his attitude toward the YPG, accusing him of abandoning them.
France, like the United States, has extended arms and training to the YPG-led militia in the fight against Islamic State and has dozens of special forces based in the region, which has infuriated Turkey.
France’s support for the SDF constitutes clear cooperation and solidarity with terror groups working to harm Turkey, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesperson Bekir Bozdağ said. The statement on supporting the SDF actually means “open support for terrorism, terror groups, and terrorists; an attempt to legalize terrorist groups; and clear cooperation and solidarity with the terror groups attacking Turkey,” Bozdağ tweeted.
“Those who enter into cooperation and solidarity with terror groups against Turkey … will, like the terrorists, become a target of Turkey,” Bozdağ wrote on Twitter and added, “We hope France does not take such an irrational step.” He also stated that Turkey is determined to fight terrorist groups, stating that those who forge friendships with such groups will lose Turkey’s friendship.
Turkey has started preparations to clear northern Syria’s Ayn al-Arab, Ras al-Ain and Tel Abyad regions of militants up to the Iraqi border, President Erdoğan said on Friday, adding that it would also clear militants from Iraq.
Outlawed PKK militants staged an attack near a military base in southeast Turkey’s Siirt province, killing six Turkish security force members and wounding seven, security sources said on Friday. They said the attack occurred in the area of a military base in the Eruh district of Siirt and that those killed were from a village guard militia that supports the Turkish military. The sources initially said five soldiers were killed.
It was not clear when the attack occurred. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said four soldiers and three village guards were also wounded in the attack, which occurred in an area where road construction was being carried out.
The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. Conflict in mainly Kurdish southeastern Turkey generally escalates as spring arrives in the mountainous region. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict between the Turkish state and the PKK, which launched a separatist insurgency in 1984. The conflict intensified after a ceasefire collapsed in 2015.
Earlier this month, Turkey captured the northern Syrian town of Afrin after a two-month offensive against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara views as an extension of the PKK.