No consensus could be reached with Turkey on defining terrorism, French President Emmanuel Macron has said, amid an ongoing row with Ankara over the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
“I don’t see any possible consensus,” Macron said after a NATO summit marred by the spat with Turkey over its demand that allies brand as “terrorists” the YPG of northeastern Syria that helped a U.S.-led coalition defeat ISIS.
Prior to the two-day summit, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that Turkey will block an update to defense plans for the Baltic republics and Poland unless NATO recognized the YPG as terrorists.
France and Turkey have been at odds over the latter’s Syria offensive, dubbed Operation Peace Spring, with Macron repeatedly criticizing NATO over failing to prevent the incursion that he previously called “madness.”
Turkey launched its offensive against the YPG, which it sees as terrorists due to the group being the Syrian arm of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – a group designated as a terrorist organization by Ankara, Washington and the European Union.
The incursion was slammed by Turkey’s Western allies, mainly because the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) was Washington’s main ally in the fight against ISIS.
After meetings between Erdoğan and U.S. President Donald Trump, as well as Baltic and Polish leaders, Turkey dropped its objections, but the fractious mood continued even after the summit ended.
Macron rejected Ankara’s assertion that the YPG is an arm of the PKK.
“We do not agree to classify the YPG-PYD as a terrorist group,” he told reporters, using an abbreviation for Democratic Union Paryt (PYD).
“We are fighting the PKK and all those who carry out terrorist activities against Turkey, in a very clear way, but we do not make this shortcut or connection that Turkey wants between these different political and military groups.”
On the eve of the summit, Macron accused Turkey of working with ISIS proxies in Syria during its offensive, which Ankara said was needed to create a “safe zone” to prevent attacks on its territory.
After the working session of the summit near London, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced that agreement had been reached on the Baltic defense plan.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda welcomed the news, thanking Erdoğan “for the solidarity”, though it was not clear what, if anything, Turkey had got in return for its support.
Macron said he felt a four-way meeting on Tuesday with Erdoğan and the British and German leaders had helped “clear up misunderstandings,” adding he thought the Turkish leader had concluded blocking the plan was not in his interests.