France denied claims of a military buildup against Turkish forces in Syria, scrambling Friday to calm tensions with NATO ally Turkey that threaten to further aggravate the Syria war. French President Emmanuel Macron raised Turkey’s ire by meeting in Paris with Syrian rebels, including Kurdish fighters that Turkey considers terrorists. Worsening matters, Macron offered to mediate between them.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan angrily refused, accusing Macron on Friday of overstepping “his limits” and going “over his head.” A French presidential official said the Turkish response was no surprise given the “sensitivities” around Kurdish separatist violence in Turkey.
Still, the official insisted that the Turkish offensive against opposition forces in northwest Syria “must stop.” The official argued that the operation is jeopardizing the broader US-led military campaign against the Islamic State group. After Macron’s meeting Thursday with members of the Syrian Democratic Forces, Kurdish figures claimed that the French leader had promised to send troops to Manbij near Syria’s border with Turkey.