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Turkey unhappy with French comments on Syrian operations - sources

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu answers a question during an interview with Reuters in Ankara, Turkey, August 24, 2015. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu expressed dissatisfaction on Tuesday with French criticism of Turkish shelling of Kurdish YPG militia targets in Syria, diplomatic sources said.

In a strong statement on Sunday, the French Foreign Ministry urged Turkey to stop bombarding Kurdish zones in Syria.

The comments were rare criticism by Paris of its NATO ally, especially since France has adopted an ambiguous position towards the Syrian YPG and its political affiliate, the PYD.

Cavusoglu subsequently requested a call with new French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and spoke with him on Monday, the sources said.

“Of course, we need to talk to Turkey,” Ayrault told lawmakers after speaking to Cavusoglu. “But we speak to each other bluntly, including over what’s happened in the last few hours.”

Turkish artillery returned fire “in kind” into Syria, military sources said on Tuesday, marking the fourth straight day of shelling by the Turkish military.

The French Foreign Ministry said Ayrault had told his Turkish counterpart that there was a common objective to stop all bombings in Syria, and that their focus should be to strengthen cooperation against Islamic State.

French diplomats have said the PYD should only be represented in Syria peace talks at the end of a political process and not at the beginning, fearing that it could splinter a wider Riyadh-backed opposition coalition and cause a Turkish backlash.

However, Paris has provided military support to Kurdish groups in Syria, and this month French officials accompanied the U.S. envoy to the coalition against Islamic State, Brett McGurk, to Syria’s Kurdish region.

Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Kevin Liffey