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Turkey blasts French president for meeting Syria's Kurdish militants

Members of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) attend the funeral of a fellow militant in Qamishli, Syria, April 10, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Turkey has censured French President Emmanuel Macron for hosting a delegation of Syrian Kurdish militants, accusing Paris of attempting to give legitimacy to a "terrorist" group.

Macron hosted representatives of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed anti-Damascus alliance of mainly Kurdish militants, in Paris on Friday.

This is while Ankara regards the SDF as a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has been waging a bloody war against Turkey for decades. 

In a statement released on Friday, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said the French president was “seeking to confer artificial legitimacy on a faction of terrorist groups."

“We condemn the reception by French President Emmanuel Macron of a delegation of so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF),” he added.

He said Macron’s meeting with SDF representatives did not sit well with the French-Turkish alliance, warning, “Turkey will not hesitate to take measures deemed necessary to protect its national security."

During the meeting, Macron assured the SDF of "active support" and financial aid to "respond to the humanitarian needs and the socio-economic stabilization of civilian populations in Syria."

Last December US President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of all 2,000 American forces from Syria, but France pledged to keep its forces in the country's north.

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Trump's abrupt move raised worries among US-backed Kurdish militants operating in northern Syria and left them feeling abandoned by Washington. France stepped in to assure the militants of its continued support.  

Some 1,200 French troops reportedly remain deployed in Syria's north, seeking to prop up the SDF.

"For now of course we remain in Syria," France's European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau said on CNews television.

An Elysee Palace official said then advisers to Macron had assured SDF of France's support in a meeting with the group's figures, including co-chairs Ilham Ahmed and Riad Darrar, in Paris a few days after Trump's announcement.

France is a member of a US-led "coalition" that has been carrying out airstrikes on what are said to be Daesh targets inside Iraq and Syria since 2014. It has also been providing arms to  militants fighting to topple the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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