February 28, 2018 / 11:44 AM / 7 months ago

Turkey rejects U.S., French calls for Afrin ceasefire in Syria

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey forcefully rejected on Wednesday Western calls to suspend its offensive in northwest Syria, saying the United States misunderstood the extent of a U.N. ceasefire resolution and accusing France of giving “false information” on the issue.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses the audience during a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, February 21, 2018. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS

Ankara has said the United Nations resolution demanding a 30-day ceasefire across Syria does not apply to its five-week-old military operation in Afrin against the Kurdish YPG militia, which Turkey says is a terrorist group.

In strongly worded statements to two NATO allies, Turkey’s foreign ministry spokesman said a U.S. State Department appeal that Turkey “go back and read” the ceasefire resolution was unfounded, and he also denied that Paris had told Ankara that the truce also applied to its Afrin campaign.

On Monday French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said he had told Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan that the U.N. demand “applied to all of Syria, including Afrin, and should be implemented everywhere and by all without any delay”.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy challenged that account, saying Macron did not specifically mention Afrin in their telephone conversation about the ceasefire resolution.

“Our reaction regarding the error of giving false information to the public was conveyed to French authorities,” Aksoy said.

U.N. RESOLUTION

The U.N. Security Council resolution demands all parties “cease hostilities without delay ... for a durable humanitarian pause for at least 30 consecutive days throughout Syria”.

It does not apply to military operations against Islamic State, al Qaeda and groups associated with them or other groups designated as terrorist organizations by the Security Council.

Turkey says the YPG militia which controls Afrin is an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party, which is deemed a terrorist group by the United States and European Union. The YPG is not designated as a terrorist group by the Security Council.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters on Tuesday that Turkey should read the ceasefire resolution, to “see what the world... is saying about this”.

Aksoy said the resolution did not specifically mention Afrin, and Turkey’s operation there was “a fight that is carried out against the terrorist organizations that target Turkey’s national security and Syria’s unity”.

Nauert’s statement “is unfounded and it shows that they are not able to understand the focus of the resolution, or they want to distort it”, Aksoy said.

U.S. support for the YPG militia in north Syria has pushed relations between Turkey and the United States to crisis point. Ankara says that after Afrin it will target the Syrian town of Manbij, where YPG and U.S. forces are deployed together.

Reporting by Daren Butler in Istanbul and John Irish in Paris; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Gareth Jones

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