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Turkey rebuffs French offer to mediate with Kurds

March 30, 2018

French President Macron has said France wants to mediate between Turkey and Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces in northern Syria. But Turkey has rejected the idea, calling the Kurdish militia a "terrorist" group.

French President Emmanuel Macron
Image: Reuters/B. Tessier

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday promised he would send French troops to the northern Syrian town of Manbij to bolster the fight against ‘Islamic State' (IS), the presidential office said in a statement.

Macron also sought to dissuade Turkey from advancing on Manbij, Khaled Eissa, a Kurdish official based in Paris, told reporters.

Read more: Opinion: The twisted logic of the war in Syria

Meeting a delegation from northern Syria including the Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG), a part of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Macron said he hoped "a dialogue can be established between the SDF and Turkey with help from France and the international community."

Macron said French forces would be deployed to Manbij "very quickly," the newspaper Le Parisien reported, citing an unnamed Kurdish representative.

This was the first visit of delegates from Rojava officials to the Elysee.

The Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS) is commonly known as Rojava, an autonomous Kurdish region in northern Syria.

Turkey turns down offer

Turkish officials on Friday were quick to reject Macron's mediation offer.

Presidential spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, wrote on Twitter that Ankara rejected "any efforts to promote 'dialogue,' 'contact' or 'mediation' between Turkey and those terrorist organizations."

He also warned Paris against taking any steps that could be seen as a legitimation of "terror groups."

Turkey sees the SDF as a security threat because of its alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged an armed campaign against Ankara since 1984 in which 40,000 people have died.

Read more: With Turkey’s offensive into Afrin, Erdogan is seeking to kill two birds with one stone

Complex geopolitics

Sending French troops to Manbij would reinforce US forces in the city and block a possible Turkish offensive.

US forces have an outpost in Manbij, under the control of the Kurdish-backed Manbij Military Council. US officials have said they have no intention of leaving Manbij, although US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that the US will leave Syria "very soon."

Turkey recently seized the Syrian Kurdish city of Afrin driving out a Kurdish militia that Ankara views as a terrorist group.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to extend its military offensive in northern Syria eastward across Rojava, beginning with Manbij.

Erdogan was informed of the visit by France's ambassador in Ankara, Le Parisien reported.

jbh/bw (Reuters, AFP)

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