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Kurds urge France to play bigger role in Syria amid US troop withdrawal

Stephane de Sakutin, AFP | Two top political leaders of the Syrian Kurdish alliance and co-chairs of the Syrian Democratic Council Ilham Ahmed (left) and Riad Darar in Paris, on December 21, 2018.

A senior Kurdish politician has called on France to play a stronger role in Syria following the withdrawal of US troops from the country.

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Ilham Ahmed, the Kurdish co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council, said that Kurdish fighters may have to withdraw from the front lines in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Ahmed warned that a Turkish attack could bring the battle against the IS group in Syria to a halt.

She said France as a NATO member has a moral obligation to prevent Turkey from attacking Kurds.

Ahmed was in Paris on Friday as part of a delegation for talks on the planned US military withdrawal from Syria as well as Turkey's threats to launch a military operation against Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria.

The delegation met French President Emmanuel Macron's representative to Syria, François Senemand.

President Donald Trump's abrupt call on US troops to leave Syria has left America's only allies in the country in the lurch.

Islamic State group prisoners may escape

Ahmed warned that Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria may not be able to continue to hold Islamic State group prisoners if the situation in the region gets out of control.

"Under the threat of the Turkish state, and with the possibility of Daesh (Islamic State) reviving once again, I fear the situation will get out of control and we will no longer be able to contain them," Ahmed said when asked if the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) was considering releasing hundreds of IS detainees.

Hundreds of foreign IS fighters are being held in Syrian Kurdish prisons.

Kurds urge France to play more active role

Speaking alongside Ahmed at a Paris news conference, Riad Darar, co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council, said he hoped France would play a more active role in Syria after US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw US forces.

France has about 200 special forces personnel operating in Syria's Kurdish areas as well as heavy artillery as part of efforts to rout Islamic State in its remaining pockets. It is also carrying out air strikes.

"We do not share the analyses that the territorial caliphate (of Islamic State group) has been annihilated," French Defence Minister Florence Parly said on RTL radio, disagreeing with Trump's assessment.

"It's an extremely grave decision and we think ... the job must be finished."

Kurds threatened by Turkey

The Kurds are seen as the big losers of Trump's shock decision to pull out of Syria, a move that leaves a group that helped rout IS from most of Syria vulnerable to attack from Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to root out Kurdish fighters – whom he calls a "terrorist offshoot" of Turkey's outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party – from northern Syria.

"We're asking the French for diplomatic support to develop dialogue and assure peace and stability in the region," Ahmed said.

"We also asked that [French] forces uphold their task in the region until a political solution is found," she added.

(FRANCE24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

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