Turkey on Tuesday warned France against protecting a US-backed Kurdish militia in Syria and said Ankara’s military was strong enough to defeat ISIS on its own after American troops pull out.
US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw all 2,000 ground forces from Syria has stunned most allies, including France, but was applauded by the Turkish government.
Ankara believes its forces supporting Syrian opposition fighters will now have greater freedom to target Kurdish fighters of the US-backed People’s Protection Units (YPG).
“If France is staying to contribute to Syria’s future, great, but if they are doing this to protect the [militia], this will bring no benefit to anyone,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, according to Hurriyet daily.
Ankara views the YPG militia as a sister “terrorist” organization of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984.
The PKK is blacklisted as a terrorist group by Ankara, the US and the European Union.
Trump last week ordered the withdrawal of US ground forces deployed in Syria to provide training to the YPG under the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance fighting ISIS.
Cavusoglu told Turkish media during a briefing that Ankara has “the power to neutralize [ISIS] alone” amid fears that a US pull-out will hurt the fight against the militant group.
The American presence has also been seen by analysts as essential for pushing back against Iranian and Russian influence.
– with reporting by Agence France-Presse