Macron meets Syrian Kurds, vows French support in fight against IS

Paris (AFP) –


President Emmanuel Macron on Friday hosted representatives of the Kurdish-led force that defeated Islamic State (IS) extremists in Syria, assuring them of France's support in the fight against remaining jihadists.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had in late March flushed out IS from their last bastion in Syria but still warn the jihadists remain a threat in places.

The SDF is an umbrella force of Kurds and Arabs dominated by Kurds from the People's Protection Units (YPG) militia. It is regarded with huge distrust by neighbouring Turkey which sees the YPG as a terror group.

Macron assured the SDF representatives, who were not named, of the "active support of France in the fight against Daesh which continues to be a menace for collective security," the presidency said in a statement, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

Particularly important was the support in the "handling of terrorist fighters held as prisoners along with their families."

European capitals are all keeping a careful eye on the IS prisoners held by the SDF after the defeat of the jihadists, given many are dual nationals.

Macron also vowed that financial support would be allocated to "respond to the humanitarian needs and the socio-economic stabilisation of civilian populations in Syria."

The SDF were the key ally of the West in defeating IS and waged the bulk of the fighting on the ground.

But they fear being abandoned by their patrons now IS is beaten, after US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of American forces from Syria.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had in April announced one million euros ($1.1 million) in humanitarian aid for camps housing displaced people, notably Al-Hol which holds thousands of women and children who lived in IS-held areas.

France's past contacts with the SDF's Syrian Kurds have angered Turkey, which regards the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The PKK has waged a 35-year insurrection against the Turkish state.

Macron also made clear of the importance to Paris of "the security of Turkey and a de-escalation along the Syrian-Turkish border," the presidency said.