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)
Updated 22 January 2018
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France urges end to offensive against Kurdish militia

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.


EU efforts to save nuke deal ‘not sufficient,’ says Iran’s Zarif

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wants the European Union to do more to save the nuclear deal after the exit of the US. (AFP)
Updated 39 min 7 sec ago
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EU efforts to save nuke deal ‘not sufficient,’ says Iran’s Zarif

  • Several foreign firms have already halted their Iranian operations while they wait to see how talks within the EU will play out.
  • Zarif spoke after meeting with EU Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete, who has been on a two-day visit to Tehran.

TEHRAN: Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Sunday that European efforts to save the nuclear deal after the exit of the US were not sufficient.

“The cascade of decisions by EU companies to end their activities in Iran makes things much more complicated,” Zarif told reporters.

He spoke after meeting with EU Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete, who has been on a two-day visit to Tehran — the first by a Western official since Washington announced its withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal earlier this month.

“With the exit of the United States from the nuclear deal, the expectations of the Iranian public toward the European Union have increased... and the EU’s political support for the nuclear agreement is not sufficient,” Zarif added in comments carried by state broadcaster IRIB.

Several foreign firms have already halted their Iranian operations while they wait to see how talks within the EU will play out.

French oil major Total said last week it would abandon its $4.8-billion investment project in Iran unless it was granted a waiver from Washington.

Another French energy giant, Engie, said Saturday it would cease engineering work in Iran before November, when US sanctions are due to be reimposed.

“The European Union must take concrete supplementary steps to increase its investments in Iran. The commitments of the EU to apply the nuclear deal are not compatible with the announcement of probable withdrawal by major European companies,” Zarif said.

Canete said he recognized that time was short and that clear measures were needed from Europe to protect investments and oil purchases.

Iran has threatened to resume industrial uranium enrichment “without limit” if its interests are not protected.