Turkey’s military push against Kurdish militias in northern Syria risks escalating the conflict, French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday, calling on all parties to stop fighting and return to peace talks.
Syrian rebels backed by Turkish army entered one of Islamic State’s last strongholds on the Turkish-Syrian border on August 24, in Turkey’s first major U.S.-backed incursion into Syria.
The operation which is named “Euphrates Shield” aims at stopping the Kurdish YPG from seizing more territory along the border and filling the void left by ISIS and eliminating the terrorist group itself.
Hollande told an annual gathering of French ambassadors that almost a year after Russia intervened in support of Bashar al-Assad’s government, “today it is Turkey that has made the choice to deploy its army on Syrian territory to defend itself against ISIS.
“But also to carry out actions against Kurds who themselves have confronted Islamic State with the support of the coalition. These multiple, contradictory interventions carry risks of a general flare-up,” Hollande said.
Hollande, who has special forces operating in Syria alongside Kurdish militias as part of an international coalition fighting the militant group, said it was a matter of absolute urgency to stop the bloodshed.
Ankara regards the YPG and YPD as allies of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for an autonomous Kurdish region inside Turkey since the 1980s.
The YPG, which controls nearly Syria’s entire northern border with Turkey, is a key US partner in the war against ISIS as they say while in fact they use US support to fulfill their goals in creating an autonomous region in northern Syria.
Turkey demanded that the YPG retreat to the east side of the Euphrates within a week. The Kurdish militia had moved west of the river earlier this month as part of a US-backed operation, now completed, to capture the city of Manbij from ISIS.
Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik said preventing the Kurdish PYD party – the political arm of the YPG – from uniting Kurdish cantons east of Jarablus with those further west was a priority.
“Islamic State should be completely cleansed, this is an absolute must. But it’s not enough for us … The PYD and the YPG militia should not replace Islamic State there,” Isik told Turkish broadcaster NTV.
“The PYD’s biggest dream is to unify the western and eastern cantons. We cannot let this happen,” he said.
“If the PYD does not retreat to east of the Euphrates, we have the right to do everything about it,” the minister said.