France warns Turkey over Syria military action ahead of talks with European leaders

French President Emmanuel Macron warned Turkey. (Reuters)
Updated 30 November 2019

France warns Turkey over Syria military action ahead of talks with European leaders

  • Macron: “Turkey cannot expect solidarity from NATO allies and at the same time launch an offensive in Syria.”

ANKARA: French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday issued a stern warning to Turkey over its military action in Syria ahead of a crunch meeting on the issue with European leaders next week.

Speaking prior to talks between Turkey, Germany, France and the UK, due to take place on the sidelines of the Dec. 3-4 NATO summit, Macron said: “Turkey cannot expect solidarity from NATO allies and at the same time launch an offensive in Syria.”

Macron’s comment came during a press conference with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg in Paris and follows his claim earlier this month that the alliance was experiencing “brain death” over its ability to ensure collective defense.

It also comes in the wake of Turkey’s reported willingness to offer its support for NATO’s defense plan for the Baltics and Poland on condition of the organization’s formal recognition of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia as a terror group.

At a time of high tensions in the NATO alliance over Turkey’s offensive in Syria last month, the four-way meeting in London will bring Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Macron around the table.

Turkey’s military incursion into northeastern Syria, the return of Syrian refugees, the establishment of a planned 30-km-deep safe zone and the subsequent political process, are subjects expected to rank high on the agenda for discussion.

Marc Pierini, the EU’s former ambassador to Syria and Turkey and currently a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, said that Ankara’s recent initiatives in Syria and its stated position over rebels and refugees had run counter to European stances and interests.

HIGHLIGHT

At a time of high tensions in the NATO alliance, the four-way meeting in London will bring leaders from Turkey, Germany, France and the UK around the table.

“The meeting in London will be one opportunity to clarify positions. But the issue is bigger than just three EU countries,” he told Arab News.

During an interview with the French magazine Paris Match on Thursday, Syrian President Bashar Assad said that the presence of French forces in Syria was an occupation, and he called on the French government to respect international law. 

“The support provided to terrorists is still continued by Turkey, the US, Britain and France,” Assad said.

Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, the Ankara office director of think tank the German Marshall Fund of the US, said that despite stark differences on certain issues, Turkey and Europe still needed to work together on key matters such as migration and the return of foreign fighters.

“The quadripartite platform will be an opportunity to voice mutual concerns but also renew their commitment to cooperate on these issues. As a general rule, talking is better than not talking, particularly for allies with mutual interests but diverging views,” he added.

Last month, Erdogan accused Western governments, especially NATO and the EU, of “siding with terrorists” over their NATO ally.

Although the Turkish incursion into Syria was paused with two separate cease-fires with Moscow and Washington, Ankara has warned it would resume its operation if the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia did not entirely withdraw from the agreed zone along Turkish border.

In the meantime, Turkey will deport 11 Daesh suspects to France in early December as part of a 2014 agreement between the two countries. Accordingly, French nationals who are arrested by Turkish authorities are deported back to France in coordination with French authorities.


Trump: Mideast peace plan likely rolled out in days

Updated 20 min 58 sec ago

Trump: Mideast peace plan likely rolled out in days

JERUSALEM: President Donald Trump said Thursday that he’ll likely release the long-awaited White House Mideast peace plan before his meeting early next week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main political rival Benny Gantz.
“It’s a great plan. It’s a plan that really would work,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One en route to a Republican Party meeting in Florida.
He said he was surprised that both Netanyahu and Gantz were willing to take a break from campaigning for the March 2 elections to join him Tuesday in Washington.
“They both would like to do the deal. They want to see peace,” Trump said. “Look, Israel wants peace, Palestinians want peace. They all want peace. Not everyone wants to say it.”
He said his administration has talked briefly to the Palestinians, who have rejected the administration’s peace plan before it even comes out.
“We’ve spoken to them briefly. But we will speak to them in a period of time,” Trump said. “And they have a lot of incentive to do it. I’m sure they maybe will react negatively at first, but it’s actually very positive to them.”
Vice President Mike Pence announced the invitation for Netanyahu and Gantz to visit during at a meeting with the prime minister in Jerusalem after addressing an international forum Thursday on the Holocaust. He said that at Netanyahu’s request, the invitation was also issued to Gantz, a former army chief.
The plan is expected to strongly favor Israel, and is unlikely to garner any international support if it is seen as undermining the prospect of a two-state solution.
“We have had no better friend than President Trump,” Netanyahu said. “With this invitation, I think that the president is seeking to give Israel the peace and security that it deserves.”
The Palestinians rejected Trump’s peace efforts after he recognized disputed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the US Embassy there in May 2018. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in the 1967 war and annexed, to be their capital.
“If this deal is announced with these rejected formulas, the leadership will announce a series of measures in which we safeguard our legitimate rights, and we will demand Israel assume its full responsibilities as an occupying power,” said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
He appeared to be referring to oft-repeated threats to dissolve the Palestinian Authority, which has limited autonomy in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. That would force Israel to resume responsibility for providing basic services to millions of Palestinians.
“We warn Israel and the US administration from crossing the red lines,” Abu Rdeneh said.
Israel’s Channel 12 TV, citing Israeli officials, said the plan is expected to be extremely favorable toward Israel and offer it control over large parts of the occupied West Bank. The Palestinians seek the entire territory, which was also captured by Israel in 1967, as the heartland of a future independent state. Most of the international community supports the Palestinian position.
Netanyahu has said he plans to annex the Jordan Valley as well as Jewish settlements across the West Bank, which would all but extinguish any possibility of creating a viable Palestinian state.
Netanyahu has tried to make that the cornerstone of his campaign for reelection following unprecedented back-to-back elections last year that left him in a virtual tie with Gantz, with neither able to cobble together a ruling coalition.
The deadlock was deepened by Netanyahu’s indictment last year on serious charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust stemming from three long-running corruption investigations. Netanyahu has asked Israel’s parliament to grant him immunity.
Next week’s meeting could produce an awkward scene. Gantz has made Netanyahu’s indictment the focus of his campaign to oust the prime minister. And his Blue and White party is leading an effort in parliament to block Netanyahu’s immunity request before the election. At the same time, they will be joined by an impeached president who is being tried in the Senate.
The US was believed to be holding back on releasing the peace plan until Israel had a permanent government. Those calculations may have changed as the deadlock in Israeli politics looks to be further prolonged.
Trump may also be looking for a boost from evangelical and pro-Israel supporters as the Senate weighs whether to remove him from office after he was impeached last month, and as he gears up for a reelection battle this year.
Pence was among dozens of world leaders in Jerusalem on Thursday for the World Holocaust Forum. Many of the participants, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron, also paid visits to the Palestinians in the West Bank.
A Palestinian official said Abbas asked the visiting French and Russian presidents to support the Palestinian position when the plan is published.
“He asked them to refuse and act against any Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing closed meetings.
While the plan is expected to be friendly to Israel, it could still face opposition from Netanyahu’s hard-line partners.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the ultranationalist Yamina party, called Trump a “true friend” of Israel and said the country likely stands before a “historic opportunity.” But he said his party would not allow the transfer of any land to Palestinian control or for a Palestinian state to be established.