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France urges end to offensive against Kurdish militia

French Defense Minister Florence Parly leaves the Elysee palace, following a recent Cabinet meeting in Paris. (AFP)
PARIS: French Defense Minister Florence Parly has pressed Turkey to stop its offensive against Kurdish militia fighting in Syria, saying the fighters were a key ally against terrorism in the war-torn country.
“This fighting... must stop,” Parly told France 3 television, adding that the Turkish offensive could “deter Kurdish forces who are at the side” of the international coalition battling terrorists in Syria.
Her comments came as Turkish ground troops entered northern Syria on Sunday to push an offensive against the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers a terror group.
But Parly said the Kurdish militants had been a crucial ally in fighting extremists such as Daesh.
“Our priority is the fight against terrorism,” Parly said.
“As a result, anything that could deter the fighters of this battle is a bad thing.”
She added: “What is essential is the fight against terrorism and all this fighting, notably that which is taking place in a terrible fashion near Idlib and elsewhere, must stop.”
The Turkish campaign risks further increasing tensions with NATO allies including the US, which has supported the YPG in the fight against Daesh.
Operation “Olive Branch,” in the Afrin region, is Turkey’s second major incursion into Syria during the seven-year civil war.
The army said Daesh was also being targeted in this operation although it no longer has any major presence in the Afrin area.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had repeatedly vowed that Turkey would root out the “nests of terror” in Syria of the YPG, which Ankara accuses of being the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The PKK, which has waged a rebellion in the Turkish southeast for more than three decades, is regarded as a terror group not just by Ankara but also its Western allies.
France has called for a UN Security Council meeting over “humanitarian risks” as fighting escalates in Syria, its Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Sunday in Algiers.
“France is very preoccupied by the situation in Syria and by the brutal degradation of the situation,” Jean-Yves Le Drian said.
“This is why we have called for a Security Council meeting to evaluate all the humanitarian risks, which are very serious,” he said on the sidelines of a meeting for western Mediterranean countries.
Le Drian spoke to his Turkish counterpart in a telephone call on Sunday morning, his staff said.
The French minister also mentioned tens of thousands of Syrians trapped in a besieged rebel stronghold outside Damascus, Eastern Ghouta, which has come under deadly regime bombardment this week.
He spoke of tens of thousands more forced to flee fighting between Russia-backed regime forces and terrorists in the northwestern province of Idlib.
Le Drian called for a halt to fighting and demanded access to humanitarian aid for all.
Idlib and Eastern Ghouta were two of four “de-escalation zones” agreed last year by rebel backer Turkey and regime allies Iran and Russia.
“It is important that everything be done for the cease-fires to be applied very soon and that a political solution finally be embarked upon,” he said.

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