'France is abetting terrorism' – Erdogan blasts French support for Syrian Kurds
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused France of helping terrorists by "hosting" them at the Elysee Palace. Last month, Emmanuel Macron met with members of Syrian Kurdish militias as a sign of Paris' support for them.
“France aids, abets and supports terror and they host terrorists at Elysee Palace,” Erdogan told his supporters in the southwestern province of Denizli on Saturday.
“You can't explain it and you can't get rid of terrorism. As long as the West feeds these terrorists, it will sink," the president added.
Relations between Ankara and Paris have been rocky in recent weeks amid mounting criticism of Turkey's 'Operation Olive Branch' in Afrin, Syria.
Turkey launched the operation on January 20, claiming that the offensive was aimed at battling terrorists in the region, including the YPG. Ankara considers the Syrian Kurdish militias to be an offshoot of its domestic militant movement, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which it has designated as a terrorist group. After the Turkish military and its Free Syrian Army (FSA) allies seized Afrin on March 19, Erdogan said that the operation would continue to target other Kurdish-held towns and may even stretch into Iraq.
Last month, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called Olive Branch "unjustified."
"While concerns over border security are legitimate... at the same time... it must be said that it absolutely does not justify the deep incursion of Turkish troops in the Afrin zone," Reuters quoted him as saying.
On March 30, President Macron added more fuel to the fire when he met a Syrian delegation, including the YPG and its political arm, the PYD, at the Elysee Palace. He offered to mediate between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the backbone of which is formed by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), and the Turkish government.
The idea came under fire from the Turkish president. "Who are you to talk about mediation between Turkey and a terrorist group?" he said, speaking at the provincial leaders' meeting of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party in Ankara.
"If the remark [by the France president] that 'We can be a mediator between Turkey and SDF' is true, it far exceeds the limit of the person who says that," Erdogan added.
Ankara said the pledge amounted to direct support for terrorism.
"Those who host at the highest level the members of a terrorist organization, 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," Erdogan noted.
Ankara has also lambasted US support for the YPG, threatening to extend military operations to areas where American forces are deployed.
Local Kurdish militias believe the Americans have come to help them fend off a Turkish offensive. "This base is of the [US-led] coalition… It was established to counterattack the Turkish threat. The coalition is here for the Turks," one Kurdish fighter, identified as the "Sheikh of the Mountain," told Ruptly video news agency earlier this week. He was referring to one of the US outposts set up not far from the northern Syrian city of Manbij, which is now controlled by US-backed Kurdish militias. Earlier, the Turkish president said Ankara plans to target Manbij in its operation against the Kurds in northern Syria.