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Macron warns Turkey against ‘invasion’ of Syria

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French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during the annual dinner of CCAF (Co-ordination Council of Armenian organisations of France) in Paris on January 30, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Christophe Petit Tesson

French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview Wednesday that he would have a “real problem” with Turkey’s intervention against a Kurdish militia in Syria if it turned into an outright “invasion”.

“If the operation became more than fighting a potential terrorist threat on the Turkish border and turns out to be an invasion operation, we would have a real problem with that,” Macron told Le Figaro daily.

Turkey’s 12-day cross-border offensive against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week threatened to expand, has strained relations with its NATO allies.

Ankara views the YPG as a terror organisation allied to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) inside Turkey but the US has been backing it as a key secular ally in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Reacting to Macron’s remarks Turkish Prime Minister Binaldi Yildirim said any suggestion that Ankara had broader designs in Syria, beyond pushing the YPG back from the border, was “totally wrong”.

“The whole world knows, or should know, that Turkey is not engaged in an invasion,” he told reporters in Ankara, comparing operation “Olive Branch” with a seven-month cross-border Turkish offensive in 2016/2017 against both Kurdish militia and Islamic State jihadists.

Turkey’s latest Syrian foray began on January 20, further dampening the prospects of an imminent end to Syria’s seven-year-old civil war.

On Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that if Turkey’s intervention turned into an “occupation” of parts of Syria, it would be “totally reprehensible”.

His remarks came after Erdogan threatened to push further east along the Syrian-Turkish border, until there was “no terrorist on our border leading to Iraq”.

He also vowed to “clean up” the YPG-held city of Manbij east of Afrin, where the US has troops.

Macron said Turkey’s operation required Europe and its allies to “have discussions and take decisions”, without specifying what they might be.


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