Turkey has warned France over bolstering its military presence in Syria, stressing that such a move would amount to an invasion.
“If France takes any steps regarding its military presence in northern Syria, this would be an illegitimate step that would go against international law and in fact, it would be an invasion,” said Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli on Saturday.
“Especially if they intend to support terror group elements or give direct or indirect protection with armed forces, this would be a really calamitous step,” he added.
Canikli’s remarks came in response to a Thursday pledge by French President Emmanuel Macron to further support US-backed Kurdish militants in northern Syria.
Turkey began the so-called Operation Olive Branch in Afrin on January 20 to clear the northern Syrian border of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a US-backed Kurdish militant group which Ankara associates with the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighting for autonomy on Turkish soil.
Macron’s remarks also drew an angry reaction from Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag, who said Friday that the promise to back the Kurds amounts to support for and legitimization of terrorist groups.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also denounced France’s stance as “completely wrong.”