French President Emmanuel Macron Friday said Turkey would be responsible for a possible resurgence of the Islamic State (ISIS) due to its recent incursion into northern Syria, calling the Turkish attempt “crazy”.
The president also denounced the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for its inability to react to the Turkish offensive. Macron added that it was time for Europe to stop acting like a junior ally when it came to the Middle East.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched the operation on October 9 soon after his US counterpart Donald Trump announced he was withdrawing US troops from north-eastern Syria.
The move was decried at home and abroad as a betrayal of the the Syrian People’s Protection Units (YPG) which was once US ally in the battle against the ISIS.
In the eyes of Erdogan, the YPG is a “terrorist offshoot” of the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) waging a separatist insurgency within the country since 1984.
Erdogan’s aim is to clear the Kurdish fighters of northern Syria and create a safe zone for resettling up to two million Syrian refugees living in Turkey.
More than 160,000 people have already been uprooted since the incursion started. There were allegations that Turkey was committing war crimes, with international concern growing about the ethnic cleansing of the local Kurdish population.
Further, the prospect of the re-emergence of the ISIS in the region due to the removal of Kurdish forces scares the western world. Turkey was accused of shelling the prisons in the area in an alleged attempt to help the ISIS militants escape from there.
Macron’s reaction came despite the announcement of a five-day cease-fire struck between Ankara-Washington delegations on Thursday.
Following more than five hours of negotiation, Turkey’s offensive was halted for 120 hours in order to allow the YPG’s pullback from the region.
European Council President Donald Tusk criticised Turkey’s cease-fire call
“It is not a cease-fire, it is a demand of capitulation of the Kurds,” Tusk said.
The two European leaders, Tusk and Macron, spoke at the European summit closure in Brussels.
“It is crazy to do what the Turks are in the process of doing. The reality I see today is that in the region those who have come out as the winners by imposing their strength are Turkey, Russia, and Iran. I am not sure that was the best strategic thing to happen for Europe and the US,” Macron said.
Macron said that NATO’s failure to act was “a serious mistake.”
“I thought we [France, Turkey and the US] were in NATO. Then I discovered by [Trump’s] tweet that the US had decided to withdraw its troops and pave the way [for Turkey’s offensive] in the area. Like everyone else, I realized that another NATO power had decided to attack partners of the coalition fighting the ISIS,” added Macron.
Macron said Trump was treating Europe as if it was an inconsequential junior ally in the Middle East, referring to the fact that they had been informed about the US pull-out decision only through Trump’s tweet.
The US decision on removal from the region forced France to also withdraw its special forces there.