General Dominique Trinquand, the former head of France's military mission to the UN and NATO, now a defence and international affairs consultant, has shared his views on how the situation may develop for the French military and NGOs civilian personnel currently located in northeast Syria.
“The problem is that the French Special Forces deployed in the area are significantly dependent on US logistics. Consequently, it is necessary to take measures so that these forces – if they have to remain – are not caught between a rock and a hard place, namely, on the one side, by the Turkish army, and on the other, by the advancing army of Bashar al-Assad”, Dominique Trinquand explained.
On 13 October, Turkish media reported that during the military operation launched jointly with the opposition Free Syrian Army against the Kurdish People's Defence Units (YPG), around 525 “terrorists” were “neutralised”. French Special Forces, sent to the region as part of an international coalition led by the United States, are closely cooperating with Kurdish units.
“France’s position is that Turkey’s invasion in this region of Syria is unacceptable, and it is necessary to support the Kurds. They cannot be completely abandoned but measures must be taken to ensure the security of our forces”, General Trinquand emphasised.
In this difficult situation, Paris must understand what diplomatic leverage and military resources it can have in case of Turkish army shelling the French military.
“Turkey will rise to a new level of escalation leading nowhere”, Dominique Trinquand warned.
General Trinquand did not exclude the possibility if Turkey attacked the French military then “French forces could destroy several units of Turkish military equipment”. According to media reports, in this region, there are “several hundred” French military. In addition to them, in the area, there are also members of humanitarian NGOs.
“If the French forces are attacked, they will certainly fight back, they have the means to do this”, Dominique Trinquand emphasised.
On 13 October, Paris announced the suspension of “all programmes for the supply of military equipment to Turkey that could be used in Turkish offensive operation”. Even if this is not the most significant decision in the framework of the Turkish military operation, it is “no less important to declare it”, Dominic Trinquand emphasised, recognising it will not have a “direct impact” shortly.
According to the general, now it is up to Moscow:
“In a broader sense, the final word is with Russia. Let me remind you that, on the one hand, Russia is an ally of Turkey, and on the other, one of Bashar al-Assad’s. At the moment, they are in confrontation with each other, and, therefore, the key is in the hands of Mr Putin; he should be able to influence Mr Erdogan”.
General Trinquand suggested that just like Trump, Erdogan is “concerned about success in future elections”:
“Both leaders think only about the election programme and not about stability in the region”.
He also recalled the “obvious economic leverage”: a significant share of Turkish exports accounts for the EU, as well as the “several billion” provided by Europe to Ankara for solving the migration crisis.
“Due to the pressure policy of Bashar al-Assad in the Idlib region, refugees will be forced to leave for Turkey. I would say these are communicating vessels”.
At the same time, the general talks about ties between Moscow and Ankara in this region, in particular, about Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400, and “coordination of efforts” in northern Syria. In his opinion, Europe and Russia should agree on actions regarding Erdogan. The general believes that the West’s refusal to participate in the Astana process has a long history:
“I would recall that the statements of President Macron were made before the beginning of summer, then in Bregançon. He later emphasised that the G7 should again become the G8. Subsequently, the Minister of Defence of the French Republic met with the Russian Minister of Defence in Moscow. There were also meetings between the Chiefs of the Russian and French General Staffs. I think there is progress on many issues. If you may, Russia, perhaps, should also do something on its part”.
*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist group banned in Russia
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