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Macron takes swipe at halting NATO reaction to Turkey's Syria incursion

October 18, 2019 at 8:30 pm

French President Emmanuel Macron in Brussels, Belgium, 28 June 2018 [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency]

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday decried NATO’s inability to react to what he called Turkey’s “crazy” offensive into northern Syria and said it was time Europe stopped acting like a junior ally when it came to the Middle East, Reuters reports.

Turkey’s military incursion into Syria to attack Kurdish forces, launched after US President Donald Trump pulled American troops out of the way, caught NATO’s strongest European powers – France, Germany and Britain – by surprise.

It left them incensed, fearing the fighting would cause a security vacuum in which militants would escape Kurdish prisons and pose new danger, undoing a Western-led coalition’s success in dismantling Daesh’s territorial “caliphate”.

The Turkish assault also left European Union powers scrambling to form a coherent response beyond refusing to pay Turkey to contain any new refugee crisis on Europe’s doorstep.

Read: Macron made last-minute bid to get Trump and Rouhani to talk in New York

Turkey agreed to a truce on Thursday after talks with US officials, setting a five-day pause for Kurdish-led SPF militia to withdraw from an area where Turkish forces now prevail. But Washington said the deal covered only a small part of the territory Turkey aims to seize as a “safe zone”, and shelling could be heard again along the border on Friday.

“I consider what’s happened in the last few days (in northern Syria) to be a serious mistake by the West and NATO in the region,” French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters after a European Council summit in Brussels.

“It weakens our credibility in finding partners on the ground who will be by our side and who think they will be protected in the long term. So that raises questions about how NATO functions.”

Macron and French government officials have in the last week warned that the 28-nation European Union risks falling into irrelevance on foreign policy unless it finds a stronger and more coherent way to respond to what they see as unpredictable allies such as US President Donald Trump’s administration.