France warned Monday that the United States' decision to withdraw troops from north-eastern Syria, leaving Turkey to launch an offensive on Kurdish militants, could open the door for a resurgence of the Islamic State armed group.
Washington began pulling troops from the north-east Syria border on Monday in a move to stop what President Donald Trump called “endless wars”.
Trump later threatened to destroy the Turkish economy if Ankara's forces went too far, but allies were scrambling to assess the implications for the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group.
“We are going to be extremely careful that this announced disengagement from the United States and a possible offensive by Turkey does not create a dangerous manoeuvre that diverts from the goal we all pursue: the fight against the Islamic State,” said France's Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly on Monday.
“We must be extremely vigilant that a manoeuvre of this kind cannot, contrary to the goal of the coalition, strengthen IS rather than weaken and eradicate it,” Parly told reporters.
France is a key ally in the US-led coalition fighting the IS group in Syria and Iraq, providing airstrikes on militant targets and special forces to coordinate with Kurdish and Arab fighters on the ground.
The country is especially sensitive to the threat posed by the jihadist gropu, which claimed responsibility for several deadly attacks, including a series of bombings that killed 130 people in the Paris region in November 2015.
France warns Turkey over prisoners
Officials believe the armed group continues to pose a threat. Hundreds of French nationals joined the IS in Syria, and many are thought to have returned to France.
Many others are held in Kurdish-controlled camps that could be compromised if Turkey launches an assault on the Kurds.
France's foreign ministry warned Turkey to avoid any action that would harm the international coalition fighting the IS and noted the Kurds had been essential allies in repelling the jihadists.
“Terrorist fighters in detention, including those of foreign nationality, must be tried in the place where they committed their crimes,” said a spokesperson of the French foreign ministry in a warning to Ankara.
“This judgment and their secure detention in north-east Syria are a security imperative to prevent them from reinforcing the ranks of terrorist groups.”