Turkey warns France ‘no benefit’ in protecting Syrian Kurd militia
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Turkey warns France ‘no benefit’ in protecting Syrian Kurd militia

Turkish Foreign Minister says French forces are welcome to stay — but only if they ‘contribute to Syria’s future’

US forces, accompanied by Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) fighters, drive their armored vehicles near the northern Syrian village of Darbasiyah, on the border with Turkey, April 28, 2017. (Delil Souleiman/AFP)
US forces, accompanied by Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) fighters, drive their armored vehicles near the northern Syrian village of Darbasiyah, on the border with Turkey, April 28, 2017. (Delil Souleiman/AFP)

ANKARA, Turkey — 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.

Washington’s decision to pull out its 2,000 ground forces from Syria has stunned most allies including France but 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).

“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 the Hurriyet daily, in comments also partially carried by the state news agency Anadolu.

Turkey views the YPG militia as a sister “terrorist” organization 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.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu during a press conference with his Libyan counterpart (not seen) at Mitiga International Airport near the Libyan capital Tripoli, on December 22, 2018. (Mahmud TURKIA/AFP)

US President Donald Trump last week 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 group.

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

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.

French President Emmanuel Macron during a visit to meet with ‘Barkhane’ soldiers and the Chadian President, at the Presidential palace in N’Djamena Chad, December 32, 2018. (Ludovic MARIN/AFP)

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 neutralize (IS) alone” amid fears that a US pullout 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.

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