Turkey’s Erdogan rejects French offer of talks with SDF

Turkish president’s comments come after a delegation of Kurdish fighters in Syria met French President Emmanuel Macron.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Erdogan said Turkey had begun preparations to clear parts of northern Syria from 'militants' [Rasit Aydogan/Anadolu]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected a French offer to mediate between Turkey and Kurdish fighters in Syria that have been blacklisted by Ankara.

His comments on Friday came a day after French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a delegation of Kurdish fighters in Paris and offered to mediate between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – an umbrella group of fighters dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) – and the Turkish government.

“Who are you to mediate between Turkey and a terror group?” Erdogan said at a meeting of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party in the capital, Ankara.

“Those who host at the highest level the members of a terrorist organisation, which has been freely carrying out its activities in their countries, should be aware that this is nothing but an expression of hostility against Turkey,” he said.

Turkey considers the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), active in Syria, and its armed wing the YPG to be “terrorist groups” with ties to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody armed rebellion for decades.

France does not have the right to complain about the actions of any armed group on its soil after meeting with the representatives of the PYD and the YPG, the Turkish leader said.

“Those who get into bed with terrorists and even welcome them at their palaces will sooner or later see the mistake they have made.

“We hope they will not dare to seek our help when France is filled with terrorists fleeing from Syria and Iraq after being encouraged by French policies,” Erdogan added.

‘Terror corridor’

The YPG has been Washington’s main ally against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group in Syria, in a partnership that has infuriated Turkey.

Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Istanbul, said Ankara “does not see everything eye-to-eye with international coalition members” when it comes to the fight against ISIL in Syria.

“Especially cooperating with SDF, that is something critical, a taboo for Turkey,” she said.

Koseoglu added that Turkish officials see such mediation efforts “as an attempt to legitimise the PKK and YPG under the name of SDF in terms of fighting against ISIL”.

Erdogan’s comments on Friday came less than two weeks after Turkish forces and Free Syrian Army rebels drove YPG fighters from Afrin city in northern Syria.

Also at the AK Party meeting, Erdogan said Turkey had begun preparations to clear parts of northern Syria from “militants”, adding it could also make incursions into northwestern Iraq.

He said Ankara would expand its military operations to Ayn al-Arab, Tal Abyad, Rasulayn and Hasakah, a stretch of northern Syria under Kurdish control, which has been described as a “terror corridor”.

Erdogan added that Turkish forces could even enter Iraq’s Sinjar province “all of a sudden” and “deal with the terrorists there.”

Source: Al Jazeera