French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday criticised Turkey’s ‘contradictory’ military intervention in Syria and warned Russia not to become a ‘protagonist’ in the war, a day after a US official warned that clashes between Turkish troops and Kurdish forces would detract from the fight against the Islamic State group.
The mounting criticism comes as a spokesman for the Kurdish-led forces in Syria said IS militants carried out a two-pronged attack on villages south and west of the former militant stronghold of Manbij, taking advantage of clashes between his forces and Turkey-backed Syrian rebels.
The Kurdish-led forces seized Manbij from IS earlier this month after a 10-week campaign. Turkish troops entered Syria last week and together with allied Syrian rebels have pushed to clear both IS militants and Kurdish-led forces from the border area around the Syrian town of Jarablus.
Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish forces an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, a domestic group it deems a terrorist organisation.
In a speech Tuesday, Hollande said “multiple, contradictory interventions carry the risk of a general inflammation” of the fighting that has devastated the country.
He said he could understand Turkey’s concern about protecting its borders and fighting the Islamic State group, but criticized Ankara’s actions against Kurdish rebels allied with the US-led coalition who are fighting the extremists. France is part of that coalition.
Shervan Darwish, a spokesman for the Manbij Military Council, part of the US-backed Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces, said the militants used at least three car bombs in Tuesday’s attacks.
The SDF, aided by airstrikes from the US-led coalition, repelled the attack initially but Darwish said clashes continued today. In a statement on Twitter, IS said they seized two villages in the area.
“The Turkish occupation of parts of Syria hampers the war against terrorism and by targeting us (the Turkey-backed forces) gave Daesh the space to reorganize its ranks and attack us,” Darwish told The Associated Press, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.
Turkish troops and the Syrian rebels they are backing are “aiming for our troops, not Daesh,” Darwish added.
Turkey’s president vowed to press ahead with the military operation until IS and Kurdish Syrian fighters no longer pose a security threat to Ankara.
In comments published today in the pro-government newspaper, Daily Sabah, Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin called on the US to “revise their policy of supporting (the Kurdish-led force) at all costs.”