In wake of Turkish offensive, France calls for urgent meeting of anti-Islamic State coalition

PARIS (Reuters) - French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for an emergency meeting of the coalition created to fight Islamic State to discuss Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish militias in northern Syria.

FILE PHOTO: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian gestures as he speaks after a meeting of the Russian-French Security Cooperation Council in Moscow, Russia, September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov/File Photo

Le Drian said on France 2 television that the coalition, which includes more than 30 countries, needs to discuss a range of issues because Islamic State could take advantage of the changes on the ground to re-emerge.

“It (the coalition) needs to say today what are we going do, how do you, Turkey, want to proceed and how do we ensure the security of places where fighters are held? Everything needs to be on the table so that we are clear,” Le Drian said.

Turkey pounded U.S.-allied Kurdish militia in Syria for a second day on Thursday, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee and killing dozens. Turkey says the Kurdish YPG, the main component of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, is a terrorist group linked to Kurdish insurgents that have fought in Turkey for years.

France is one of the United States’ main allies in the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, with its warplanes used to strike militant targets and its special forces on the ground coordinating with Kurdish and Arab fighters.

Dozens of French Islamic State fighters are also being held by Kurdish groups in areas close to the Turkish offensive.

The United States said on Thursday that it had taken two dangerous fighters out of the area, but Le Drian said that for now France had not changed its position.

Foreign fighters should be judged and imprisoned where they had committed their crimes, he said, dismissing any possibility of them being brought home.

“We have not modified our position and that is the position shared by all the Europeans, but it means that the security of these prisons and camps have to be guaranteed,” Le Drian said.

“That’s why the Turkish offensive is extremely serious. The enemy is Islamic State and it is not dead. Either their fighters are in prisons, camps or in secret and are waiting for us to turn our attention elsewhere.”

He added that for now there was no indication that the prisons where the fighters were held were under threat.

Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Chris Reese and Grant McCool