Turkey blasts France, US over Syria ceasefire comments

28 February 2018 - 11:14 By AFP
Members of the United Nations Security Council vote for ceasefire to Syrian bombing in eastern Ghouta, at the United Nations headquarters in New York, US, February 24, 2018.
Members of the United Nations Security Council vote for ceasefire to Syrian bombing in eastern Ghouta, at the United Nations headquarters in New York, US, February 24, 2018.
Image: REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Turkey on Wednesday sharply criticised France and the United States for arguing a ceasefire in Syria should apply to its military operation against Kurdish militia, as new tensions mounted between Ankara and its NATO allies.

The United Nations Security Council, crucially including regime ally Russia, has agreed a 30-day nationwide ceasefire in Syria although this has yet to be implemented or end the violence in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta.

Turkey has welcomed the ceasefire but repeatedly insisted any truce will not affect its over month-long operation in the Afrin region against Kurdish militia Ankara believes to be terrorists.

French President Emmanuel Macron told his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in telephone talks Monday the ceasefire must be applied across the country "including in Afrin," the French presidency said.

But the Turkish foreign ministry Wednesday accused Paris of giving a false readout of the conversation, saying Macron did not refer to Afrin in the discussion on the ceasefire.

It said Turkey had informed the French authorities that their statement showed a "lack of candour" and made the error of "misinforming public opinion."

In Washington meanwhile, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert also insisted that the ceasefire did apply to the Afrin operation.

"Turkey is more than welcome to go back and read the exact text of this UN Security Council resolution, and I would suggest that they do so," she said.

Nauert argued that only campaigns against Islamic State jihadists, Al-Qaeda and other extremist Islamist groups were exempted from ceasefire.

The Turkish foreign ministry said in a separate statement that Nauert's comments were "devoid of any basis", insisting that the Afrin campaign was a fight against "terrorists" and a matter of self defence for Turkey.

Turkey's operation against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia has raised tensions with Washington, which works closely with the YPG in the fight against jihadists in Syria.

Ankara sees the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which for over three decades has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state and is banned by Turkey, the US and the European Union as a terror group.

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