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Turkey says France ‘cannot give lessons’ over Syria

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu

Istanbul, Turkey | AFP | Turkey on Thursday told France to refrain from giving “lessons” over its campaign in Syria, where Ankara is pressing a fierce offensive against Kurdish militia.

The warning from Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu came a day after French President Emmanuel Macron told Ankara that it would be a “real problem” if its intervention turned into an outright “invasion”.

“France cannot give us lessons on this issue,” Cavusoglu told reporters in televised comments.

“We are not France, which occupied Africa,” Cavusoglu added, referring to France’s colonial past.

Turkey launched an offensive on January 20 against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week threatening to expand the operation, straining relations with Ankara’s NATO allies.

Turkey says the YPG is a terror organisation allied to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

But the United States has backed the YPG as a key secular ally in the fight against the Islamic State group.

“Unfortunately Europeans are two-faced,” Cavusoglu said.

He claimed that European leaders had expressed support for Turkey’s campaign in Syria during talks with Ankara, but that they had changed their stance in subsequent public comments.

Reacting to Macron’s remarks, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Wednesday that any suggestion that Ankara had broader designs in Syria, beyond pushing the YPG back from the border, was “totally wrong”.

“The whole world knows, or should know, that Turkey is not engaged in an invasion,” he said, comparing Ankara’s operation “Olive Branch” with a seven-month cross-border offensive in 2016/2017 against both Kurdish militia and IS extremists.


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