Ankara: Turkey said on Friday that a French pledge to help stabilise a region of northern Syria controlled by Kurdish-dominated forces amounted to support for terrorism and could make France a “target of Turkey”. French backing for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia, has angered Ankara at a time when it is fighting the YPG in northern Syria and considers it a terrorist organisation. President Tayyip Erdogan said France had taken a “completely wrong approach” on Syria, adding that he exchanged heated words with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, last week.
The split with France is the latest rift between Turkey under Erdogan and its NATO allies in the West. Turkey has long complained about U. S. support for the SDF, among a number of irritants to ties with the leading NATO power. Last year it compared the German and Dutch authorities to Nazis for restricting pro-Erdogan demonstrations during a campaign for a referendum to give him greater powers.
The White House said President Donald Trump, who added fresh uncertainty on Thursday when he said that the United States would be “coming out of Syria” very soon, spoke to Erdogan on Friday “to discuss regional developments and the strategic partnership between the United States and Turkey”.
“The two leaders expressed support for continued efforts to increase cooperation between their two countries, to advance shared interests as NATO allies, and to work through issues that affect the bilateral relationship,” a White House statement said.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said the French stance was setting Paris on a collision course with Ankara. “Those who enter into cooperation and solidarity with terror groups against Turkey . . . will, like the terrorists, become a target of Turkey,” Bozdag, who is also the Turkish government spokesman, wrote on Twitter. “We hope France does not take such an irrational step. “
Macron met an SDF delegation on Thursday and gave assurances of French support to stabilise northern Syria. A presidential source later said France could increase its military contribution to the U. S. -led coalition which – alongside the SDF – is fighting Islamic State in Syria. The United States has 2,000 troops in SDF-held territory, and France also has some troops there as part of the coalition. Ankara considers the YPG fighters in the SDF to be an extension of Kurdish militants who have waged a decades-old insurgency in southeast Turkey.