Macron offers to mediate talks between Syrian Kurds and Turkey
France has offered to mediate between Turkey and the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces, and assured the SDF of Paris's support in stabilising northern Syria, President Emmanuel Macron's office said on Thursday.
Speaking after Macron met a delegation from northern Syria that included the Kurdish YPG militia, Khaled Eissa, a Kurdish official based in Paris, said Macron had promised to send French troops to Manbij to support the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group and dissuade Turkey from advancing on the town.
The president's office declined to comment on that claim.
Earlier on Thursday, Macron held talks with a delegation from Syria after criticism at home over his response to a Turkish military operation against the militants in the north of the country.
As well as the YPG, which Turkey is trying to sweep out away from its border, the delegation also included its political arm the PYD. Kurdish officials and Macron's office said the meeting covered the situation in the north of the country, where Ankara launched its operation almost two months ago.
Turkey, which stormed the northern Syrian town of Afrin last week, has repeatedly threatened to extend its operations farther east to Manbij, where US troops are stationed.
"An Arab, Kurdish and Christian delegation from Syria is being received at the Elysee to discuss the situation in Afrin and northern Syria," the representative office of the northern Syrian Rojava region, which is largely controlled by the Kurds, said on Twitter.
"Important announcements are expected from France."
Macron spoke to US President Donald Trump on Wednesday about the situation in northern Syria. Macron's office said in a statement that the two had agreed that the fight against IS was their absolute priority and nothing should be done to deter the coalition fighting it. The Kurdish YPG has been at the forefront of the battle.
Former president Francois Hollande, who originally approved French support for the Kurds, bemoaned on 23 March Macron's Syria policy, in particular his attitude towards the Kurds, accusing him of abandoning them.
Before Thursday's meeting, a Kurdish official said the delegation included military and political officials, including a YPG spokesman.
Ankara considers the YPG to be an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the state within Turkey.
France, like the United States, has extended arms and training to the YPG-led militia in the fight against IS in Syria, and also has dozens of special forces based in the region, much to Turkey’s ire.