November 28, 2019 / 2:37 PM / 11 days ago

Turkey dismisses Macron's Syria criticism, says he sponsors terrorism

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday dismissed French President Emmanuel Macron’s criticism of Turkey’s offensive in Syria against the Kurdish YPG militia, saying the French leader sponsors terrorism.

FILE PHOTO: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu attends the Istanbul Mediation Conference in Istanbul, Turkey, October 31, 2019. Turkish Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS

“He is already the sponsor of the terrorist organization and constantly hosts them at the Elysee. If he says his ally is the terrorist organization... there is really nothing more to say,” Cavusoglu said.

“Right now, there is a void in Europe, (Macron) is trying to be its leader, but leadership comes naturally,” he told reporters in parliament.

Last month, Macron met Jihane Ahmed, the spokeswoman for the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), of which the YPG is a big part, to express France’s solidarity with them in their fight against Islamic State in Syria.

Turkey considers the YPG as a terrorist group and has been infuriated by the supports its allies have given the group. The Turkish assault, launched on Oct. 9, was condemned by Ankara’s NATO allies, including France.

NATO SUMMIT

Earlier on Thursday, Macron said that Turkey could not expect solidarity from NATO allies when it launched its offensive in northeast Syria as a “fait accompli”.

Ties between Turkey and France have been strained in recent years, but Macron and Cavusoglu’s comments on Thursday highlight growing tensions ahead of NATO’s 70th anniversary summit in London next week.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that Turkey was refusing to back a NATO defense plan for the Baltics and Poland until it got more political support for its fight against the YPG. On Wednesday, a Turkish source said the impasse stemmed from the United States’ move to withdraw its support for a separate Turkey defense plan.

Asked about the stalemate, Cavusoglu said that NATO needed to act in a way that addresses the concerns of all its allies, but added that Ankara wanted to find a middle ground over the defense plan stalemate.

“We are not against this NATO plan for the Baltics. However, what is being requested for the Baltic countries should also be done for us. We are also allies,” Cavusoglu said.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Dominic Evans

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