Apr 01 2018

Macron has crossed a line with Turkey - Kurdish specialist

France’s backing of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has angered Ankara as its military operation in Syria - Olive Branch - against the People's Protection Units (YPG) continues.

French President Emmanuel Macron has been criticised at home for his response to Turkey’s Afrin Operation, with critics saying that he has abandoned the Kurds in Syria.

The YPG militia, which makes up a large portion of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), have been at the forefront of the international coalition's strategy in tackling militants in Syria.

Following Macron’s meeting with an SDF delegation on Thursday, a senior Kurdish official said that Macron had promised to send more troops to the area as part of the coalition's efforts, provide humanitarian assistance, as well as "mediate" between the Kurds and Ankara.

Turkey , which considers the YPG to be an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), was quick to respond, noting that France's pledge to help stabilise the region controlled by Kurdish-dominated forces amounted to support for terrorism.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ even went as far as to say that France would be a "target of Turkey.''

 Kurdish expert and Journalist Olivier Piot, author of "The Kurdish people: keystone of the Middle East” spoke to FRANCE 24 about France’s recent statements and stance on Syria. Piot maintains that Macron is supporting the Kurds in Syria so that France will have long-term influence in the reconstruction of the country.

According to Piot, ‘’whether the West will play a role in Syrian reconstruction therefore depends partly on France’s intentions. Emmanuel Macron understood this and decided to send a strong if not very clear signal to the Kurds in Syria that France will stand by them.’’

Piot holds that it remains to be seen how France will support Kurds: ‘’We abandon the Kurds, we abandon any chance for an alternative to Syrian reconstruction under the sole aegis of Bashar al-Assad.’’

Piot stresses that Macron is crossing a line in his relationship with Turkey.

‘’Until now, he expressed concern and warned President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he had to pay attention to the stability of the region. But it’s become clear that Ankara’s goal is to capture the 900 kilometre frontier in northern Syria, all the way to the town of Qamishli, to rid the region of terrorists. The United States hasn’t responded to this move, and until now, France hasn’t taken a clear stance. Erdogan is in the habit of making strong statements with no response in kind. This is not the first time he has threatened Western leaders, but Emmanuel Macron has started to be more firm with him,’’ Piot says.