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ANKARA: Turkey on Tuesday warned France against protecting a US-backed Kurdish militia in Syria and said Ankara’s military power was enough to defeat the militant Islamic State after US troops withdraw.

Washington’s decision to pull out all 2,000 ground forces from Syria has stunned most allies, including France, but was greeted with approval by Turkey.

Ankara believes its forces supporting Syrian opposition fighters will now have a freer rein to target Kurdish fighters from the US-backed People’s Protection Units (YPG).

“If France is staying to contribute to Syria’s future, great, but if they are doing this to protect the (militia), this will bring no benefit to anyone,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, according to Hurriyet daily.

Turkey views the YPG militia as a sister “terrorist” organisation of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984.

The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara, the US and the European Union.

President Donald Trump last week ordered the withdrawal of US ground forces deployed in Syria to provide training to the YPG under the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance battling the militant Islamic State group.

Cavusoglu told Turkish media during a briefing that Ankara has “the power to neutralise (IS) alone” amid fears that a US pull-out will hurt the fight against IS.

The US presence has also been seen by analysts as key to pushing against Iranian and Russian influence.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a Turkish delegation would head to Moscow “today, tomorrow” to discuss the US pull-out, TRT state broadcaster reported.

Erdogan added he expected to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin for face-to-face talks about the issue.

He had already invited Trump to visit Turkey in 2019, the White House said on Monday, as ties improve between the Nato allies amid past strains over US support to the YPG.

Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2018