France warns Turkey over Syria military action ahead of talks with European leaders
MENEKSE TOKYAY ANKARA: French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday issued a stern warning to Turkey over its military action in Syria ahead of a crunch meeting on the issue with European leaders next week.
Speaking prior to talks between Turkey, Germany, France and the UK, due to take place on the sidelines of the Dec. 3-4 NATO summit, Macron said: “Turkey cannot expect solidarity from NATO allies and at the same time launch an offensive in Syria.”
Macron’s comment came during a press conference with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg in Paris and follows his claim earlier this month that the alliance was experiencing “brain death” over its ability to ensure collective defense.
It also comes in the wake of Turkey’s reported willingness to offer its support for NATO’s defense plan for the Baltics and Poland on condition of the organization’s formal recognition of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia as a terror group.
At a time of high tensions in the NATO alliance over Turkey’s offensive in Syria last month, the four-way meeting in London will bring Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Macron around the table.
Turkey’s military incursion into northeastern Syria, the return of Syrian refugees, the establishment of a planned 30-km-deep safe zone and the subsequent political process, are subjects expected to rank high on the agenda for discussion.
Marc Pierini, the EU’s former ambassador to Syria and Turkey and currently a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, said that Ankara’s recent initiatives in Syria and its stated position over rebels and refugees had run counter to European stances and interests.
“The meeting in London will be one opportunity to clarify positions. But the issue is bigger than just three EU countries,” he told Arab News.
During an interview with the French magazine Paris Match on Thursday, Syrian President Bashar Assad said that the presence of French forces in Syria was an occupation, and he called on the French government to respect international law.
“The support provided to terrorists is still continued by Turkey, the US, Britain and France,” Assad said.
Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, the Ankara office director of think tank the German Marshall Fund of the US, said that despite stark differences on certain issues, Turkey and Europe still needed to work together on key matters such as migration and the return of foreign fighters.
“The quadripartite platform will be an opportunity to voice mutual concerns but also renew their commitment to cooperate on these issues. As a general rule, talking is better than not talking, particularly for allies with mutual interests but diverging views,” he added.
Last month, Erdogan accused Western governments, especially NATO and the EU, of “siding with terrorists” over their NATO ally.
Although the Turkish incursion into Syria was paused with two separate cease-fires with Moscow and Washington, Ankara has warned it would resume its operation if the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia did not entirely withdraw from the agreed zone along Turkish border.
In the meantime, Turkey will deport 11 Daesh suspects to France in early December as part of a 2014 agreement between the two countries. Accordingly, French nationals who are arrested by Turkish authorities are deported back to France in coordination with French authorities.