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French PM criticises US 'hesitations' on northeastern Syria

Edouard Phillipe says Paris's support for Kurdish forces against the Islamic State has not changed
A Turkish army tank drives towards the border with Syria on 8 October (AFP)

Paris will continue to back the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group, the French prime minister has said ahead of a planned Turkish military operation against the Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.

Edouard Phillipe said on Tuesday that fighting IS is a priority for France, days after Donald Trump said he will move US troops from northern Syria, paving the way for the Turkish intervention.

"The fight against Daesh (Islamic State) is not over and continues alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces," Phillipe told lawmakers, Reuters reported.

The French prime minister was responding to members of parliament who had criticised the government for not publicly defending Kurdish forces threatened by a possible Turkish offensive.

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Philippe said France has not faltered in its support for the SDF, unlike the US.

"Saying things with constancy and coherence is preferable to reacting to obvious hesitations from certain players notably our American friends," Philippe added.

Backed by the US, the SDF played a major role in defeating IS. However, Ankara, which has been battling Kurdish militants in Turkey for decades, views the Kurdish factions in the group as a threat to its national security.

Russia, which has been backing pro-government forces in the Syrian war, also appeared to criticise the Turkish military operation.

On Tuesday, Russia's security council warned against actions that would inhibit the peace process in Syria, noting the creation of a committee last month to draft a new constitution for the war-torn country.

Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was unaware of the US announcement for troop withdrawal.

"We still don't know which troops are being withdrawn, in what amount, and whether they are being withdrawn at all," he said, as reported by the AFP. 

"There have been various announcements about withdrawals from different parts of the world which later were not confirmed."

Kurdish backlash

In addition to international warnings against the attack on the SDF, Trump continues to face a backlash domestically over his decision to pull US troops from northeastern Syria.

On Tuesday, dozens of pro-Kurdish activists gathered in front of the White House, urging the Trump administration to stand with its SDF allies.

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Kurdish protesters demonstrate in front of the White House (MEE/Sheren Khalel)

Sinam Mohamad, US co-chair of the SDF's political wing, told Middle East Eye that her office has been in frequent contact with Trump administration officials. 

"They've told us that no one is giving a green light to Erdogan, but Erdogan is doing whatever he likes. No one can stop him," Mohamad said.

She added that the SDF has "has done a lot" in the fight against IS.

"Up until now our people trusted the US but if this really happens, I think the United States will lose its credibility among our people."