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Erdogan ‘saddened’ by France’s stance on Kurdish militia


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party’s provincial chairmen meeting at the party headquarters in Ankara on March 30, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said he was “extremely saddened” by France’s position after Paris offered to mediate with the Syrian Democratic Forces dominated by a Kurdish militia deemed a terrorist group by Ankara.

“We are extremely saddened by France’s… wrong stance on this issue,” Erdogan said during a speech in Ankara after French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that he hoped “a dialogue” could be established between Ankara and the SDF.

“We have no need for mediation… Since when has Turkey had an issue of sitting down at the table with terror organisation?”

The majority of the SDF is made up of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia which Ankara says is a “terrorist” offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) waging an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984.

The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.

But the YPG inside the SDF has been working closely with the United States to fight the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria, much to Ankara’s anger.

“Those who say ‘we guaranteed support to YPG’, ‘we can mediate between Turkey and SDF’… are out of their depth and are surpassing their limit,” Erdogan thundered.

“You can sit down at the table with terror organisations but Turkey will continue its fight against terror.”

During the meeting with a delegation of Syrian and Arab fighters on Thursday, Macron acknowledged the “role of the SDF in the fight against Daesh”, using another term for IS.

Turkey on January 20 launched an operation against the YPG in its western enclave of Afrin in Syria and on March 18, Turkish troops supporting Syrian rebels drove the YPG out of Afrin city.

Erdogan hit out at France, saying it “still had yet to give an account for its dirty and bloody past” and that “after this stance, it no longer had the right to complain about terror organisations, terrorists and terror attacks”.

The Turkish president added that Macron had made “strange remarks” in a call about Syria last week. “I was forced to point it out to him, even if the tone was a bit raised,” he said, without giving details.

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