France's Macron meets north Syria delegation, YPG Kurds

Reuters , Thursday 29 Mar 2018

File Photo: French President Emmanuel Macron (Reuters)

French President Emmanuel Macron held talks with a delegation from Syria, including the Kurdish YPG militia, on Thursday after criticism at home over his response to a Turkish military operation against the militants in the north of the country.

As well as the YPG, which Turkey is trying to sweep out away from its border, the delegation also included its political arm the PYD. Kurdish officials and Macron's office said the meeting covered the situation in the north of country, where Ankara launched its operation nearly two months ago.

Turkey, which stormed the northern Syrian town of Afrin last week, has repeatedly threatened to push its operations further east to Manbij where US troops are stationed.

"An Arab, Kurdish and Christian delegation from Syria is being received at the Elysee to discuss the situation in Afrin and northern Syria," the representative office of the northern Syrian Rojava region, which is largely controlled by the Kurds, said on Twitter.

"Important announcements are expected from France."

Macron spoke to US President Donald Trump on Wednesday on the situation in northern Syria. Macron's office said in a statement that the two had agreed that the fight against Islamic State group was their absolute priority and nothing should be done to deter the coalition fighting it.

The Kurdish YPG has been at the forefront of the battle.

Former president Francois Hollande, who originally approved French support for the Kurds, bemoaned on March 23 Macron's Syria policy, in particular his attitude to the Kurds, accusing him of abandoning them.

Before Thursday's meeting, a Kurdish official said the delegation included military and political officials, including a YPG spokesman.

Ankara considers the YPG to be an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the state within Turkey.

France, like the United States, has extended arms and training to the YPG-led militia in the fight against Islamic State group in Syria, and also has dozens of special forces based in the region. That has infuriated Turkey.

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