France says EU sanctions against Turkey 'on the table'

Paris: France said Friday that EU sanctions against Turkey over its offensive against Kurdish forces in Syria are "on the table", after European nations failed to convince the UN Security Council to condemn the operation. "Obviously it's on the table," Europe minister Amelie de Montchalin told France Inter radio, saying potential reprisals over Turkey's incursion into northeast Syria would be debated during a European Council meeting next week.

"Our condemnation is strong but it's not just that... we're going to act," Montchalin said. "You can imagine that we're not going to stay on our side of the table and say, 'Well you know, we recognise that things are complicated'," she said.

Turkey launched artillery and air strikes Wednesday against Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia after US President Donald Trump surprised Washington's allies in the fight against the Islamic State extremist group by pulling out US troops along the Syria-Turkey border. Ankara considers the YPG, the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces which have led the fight against IS with US backing, a terrorist group waging a separatist fight on Turkish territory. But the claims are not shared by many countries, who hail the key role played by the Kurds in dislodging the Islamic State group from Syria after years of fierce fighting.

They have set up their own institutions in the territory they control in Syria, where they have taken custody of thousands of Islamist insurgents, including many foreigners who came to fight. Turkey announced Friday the first death of one of its soldiers in the operation in northern Syria, while dozens of Kurdish fighters and several civilians have been killed, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

At an emergency meeting Thursday, the five European members of the Security Council were unable to convince the rest of the 15-state body to adopt a statement telling Turkey to halt the military operations. France, Germany, Britain, Belgium and Poland were forced to deliver their statement alone, while the United States issued a separate statement asserting that it did not endorse the Turkish operation.

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