French President Emmanuel Macron accused Turkey of colluding with Islamic State (ISIS) proxies and fighting against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) which bore the brunt of the fighting against ISIS in Syria.
Macron was speaking alongside US President Donald Trump on Tuesday prior to the 70th-anniversary summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in London.
“I am sorry we do not have the same definition of terrorism around the table. When I look at Turkey, they now are fighting against those who fight with us, who fought with us, shoulder to shoulder, against ISIS. And sometimes they work with ISIS proxies,” Macron said, referring to the YPG.
The French president added that Turkey’s ambiguity towards ISIS was harmful to its bloc allies fighting in Syria and Iraq and it, therefore, had to end its ambiguities towards these groups.
On November 7, Macron said the NATO was suffering “brain death”, referring to a lack of strategic coordination among allies over Turkish offensive in Syria against the YPG and to the unpredictability of Trump’s administration.
Turkey attacked the US-backed YPG on October 9 to invade north-eastern Syria to clear the area off the Kurds and setting up a “safe zone” where it plans to resettle one million refugees.
At the time President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that Turkey had been given the green light to launch the incursion into Syria.
Although the US administration refuted Erdogan’s claim, Trump faced harsh criticism by many for his order to withdraw the US troops from the region just before the Turkish operation.
Macron’s NATO criticism sparked a war of words with Erdogan who said the French president should first check his own brain death out and accused his French counterpart of having a “sick and shallow” understanding of the situation.
Erdogan’s comments were perceived as “insults” by the French who are also against Turkey’s other move at the NATO.
Turkey declared last week that it would not support a NATO defense plan, which is expected to be discussed during the summit, for the Baltic States and Poland unless it gets political support from the bloc for its fight against YPG.
Turkey demands that NATO formally recognize the YPG as a terrorist organization.
“The number one [priority] is not to be ambiguous with these groups [ISIS], which is why we started to discuss our relations with Turkey,” the French leader added.
In November, Turkey started repatriating detained suspected ISIS members, some of whom were captured during the operation and vowed to return more of them, most of whom are from European nations.
Trump has repeatedly criticized European leaders for their reluctance in taking those extremist fighters back.
During the news conference, Trump unexpectedly asked whether Macron would like some “nice” ISIS fighters back.
“You can take everyone you want,” Trump called out to Macron in a light-hearted manner.
In response, Macron called on Trump to “be serious”, saying: “It is true you have fighters coming from Europe but this is a tiny minority and I think the number one priority because it is not finished, is to get rid of ISIS and terrorist groups. This is our number one priority and it’s not yet done.”
France has reportedly nearly 400 nationals, among them 60 fighters held in northern Syria refusing to accept adults home as they should it argues be tried where their crimes were committed.