Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused France of supporting terrorists amid growing tensions between the two NATO members over their different positions with regard to Kurdish militants in northern Syria.
France has been one of the most outspoken critics of Turkey's military operation against Kurdish militants in Syria’s northern region of Afrin.
Tensions between Paris and Ankara deteriorated after French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a delegation of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) at the Elysee Palace on March 29. The SDF is an alliance of militias in northern and eastern Syria, which is largely dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
"France, you are abetting terrorism, supporting it by then hosting them at the Elysee Palace," Erdogan told his supporters in the southwestern province of Denizli on Saturday.
"You will not be able to explain this. You will not be able to rid yourself of this terror burden ... As long as the West nurtures these terrorists, you will sink," he added.
During the meeting at the Elysee Palace, which was also attended by representatives of Syria's Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), commonly referred to as the YPG’s political wing, as well as some Arab and Christian figures, Macron promised support for US-backed Kurdish militants in northern Syria, which have been the target of a Turkish offensive.
The French president also promised to deploy more ground troops to the area while also providing humanitarian assistance and pushing for a diplomatic solution.
The Turkish military says it has established full control over Afrin following more than two months of battle with the YPG, which Ankara views as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Turkey has banned the PKK as a terrorist organization. The militant group has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region since 1984. The three-decade conflict has left more than 40,000 people, mostly Kurds, dead.
Just like the United States, France has provided YPG militants with arms and training. Paris has also infuriated Turkey after it deployed dozens of its special forces to northern Syria.
Macron’s office refused to comment on whether he was sending troops to Syria, but said the president was ready to help settle differences between Ankara and the SDF. Turkey, however, immediately turned down the French leader’s mediation offer.
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